April 5, 2013. (San Diego)—Today nine San Diego Workers went on a five day hunger strike. These San Diego Workers, are protesting what Lorena Gonzalez of the Central Labor Council calls “union busting practices.”
This is not the first time something like this happens when workers try to organize. Last year over a thousand Janitors attempted to organize in San Diego, and the company they worked for suddenly discovered E-Verify. This is the same at the Hilton in Mission Valley. This is not being done by the hotel to check on the migratory status of workers, but as a tool to suppress the efforts of workers to organize.
In her view E-Verify is used “as a weapon to intimidate workers.”
One of these striking workers is Virginia Martinez. Martinez told the media gaggle that came for the presser that she had “ten years working in this country. I love this country. With this job I’ve sent three daughters to University, and maintain my elderly mother. I was told that as of April 9, I am out of the team.” She added, “we are the workers who do the heavy work.”
Later Martinez told me that she is a housekeeper. The hotel wants her to clean sixteen rooms in eight hours. That is one room every half hour. This means making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping and vacuuming.” “They want one person to do the job of two or three people.”
She also told me that Local 30 of Unite Here is supporting the strikers. In fact, a few of the Strikers were from Unite Here.
She was also glad to see that “The Central Labor Council is supporting us, as well as politicians, who understand our suffering.”
When San Diego School Member Richard Barrera came to the microphone he told the Press Gaggle that at times companies do what they do in the shadows. “this comes into the light in our communities.” He added, that the kids have been on Spring Break and they are coming back to school on Monday. Some of them, “will come back to school after their parents lose their jobs. This disrupts our classrooms.”
According to Barrera the San Diego Unified School District serves one hundred thirty thousand children. “We don’t check who is documented or not, but two thirds live under the poverty line. Their parents are working low wage jobs.”
He also said that “the number one factor to success in school is poverty.” Moreover, the Title One programs, used by the school district to teach these kids are being cut due to the Sequester to the tune of four million dollars. They are also losing Head Start Funds, and will not be able to fund one hundred slots.
Due to poverty, the School District is also seeing low level malnutrition. Two thirds of the students qualify for the Enhanced Lunch Program. This means that these kids qualify for both breakfast and lunch. This also means that on Fridays, those children have had the last good meal they will see, and by Monday they are very hungry since they have struggled all weekend. When they return from Spring Break, many of those kids have really struggled.
Some of them will be the children of the employees who have been threatened with dismissal by the Hilton. “If people care of the quality of the schools in San Diego, they need to care about poverty and the parents of those kids.”
These children also qualify for Cal Fresh and Medical. For many of them, their primary health care provider is the school nurse. And as counterintuitive as it might seem, “obesity is a result of malnutrition.”
Barrera is joining the Strikers for the first twenty four hours.
Laura Garcia, the daughter of a couple Hotel Workers, her mother is a Housekeepr and her father is a Houseman, said that she was a US Citizen, her father has a greencard and her mother was born in Los Angeles. They are not in danger of losing their jobs. But as Gonzalez pointed earlier in the rally, E-Verify is full of pitfalls and a clerical error can lead to a mismatch. “The IRS gives people seven business days to fix it.”
Alma Romero, an Organizer with Unite Here, told me “They are hiring at personnel agencies women who are here illegally.” She added, “they are trying to wash their hands free, and this is an injustice.”
San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria also came to show his support. As he said, “the City stands with these workers. The tactics used here do not match with the slogan of San Diego, America’s Finest City.”
He told the crowd, “my mother was a hotel worker.” He reminded them that workers have a right to organize, and “the last thing they need is retaliation.”
He added that this took great strength, and that certainly we can do better than that.
The workers also have the support of The Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, as they have throughout this year of struggle. Reverend Beth Johnson is joining them in the five-day strike. She said “Hotel Management (after a new change of ownership that happened this year), agreed to hire all the workers. Then they ran the E-Verify as a tool.
Reverend Johnson reminded the crowd “an injury to one is an injury to all.” She closed with a prayer.
Finally, Lario, an older worker, said that he has been working at this hotel for twenty years. He said that with “every new change of ownership things get worst.” They pressure the workers to do more work, “hurry, hurry, the only thing needed is the whip, used with the mule.”
He said that the managers are dirty. They do dirty things to workers. He is a retired citizen, so they don’t give him much work, but as he put it. “I still have a right to make some money.” He is here to support his comrades.”