How Do Conditions Change When there is a Union

 

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By

Nadin Abbott

 

April 8, 2013 (San Diego)—Local 11 of Unite Here came today to the San Diego Mission Valley Hilton to support the strikers. They were here here in full knowledge that for a few of them this was a familiar, and I might recent, struggle.

 

Regla Soto works at the LAX Westin Hotel. (Disclosure time, we used to go to that hotel regularly for a Convention, and we were always impressed by the service, regardless). She was there when they had the same fight to get a Union into the Hotel. They were helped by Unite Here, and other LA Unions, so Regla has experienced both sides of the coin.

 

“Before the Union they screamed at us, they did not respect us as human beings. These days they do that, we call the Shop Steward who reminds them that we have a contract. In the contract, it is stipulated that they have to respect the workers.” This might seem like a minor thing, but people actually hate to be humiliated on a regular basis. In fact, it can play havoc with self esteem.

 

Now the Westin used to have medical insurance, but it was so expensive that half the work force could not even think of affording it. After the Union came in, medical insurance is affordable.

 

“There is job security.”

So, how about the work load? A house keeper still gets fifteen rooms assigned for the shift, but due to an internal formula, negotiated through the contract, if workers have to clean several rooms with a double bed, that means one less room. They also get a reduction in the work load, if they get a suite. This means that effectively they clean less rooms. Also they get one less room, if they get the first ten pass the quality control checks.

 

Overall there is less stress. Now how about pay? Well, “before I made minimum, with fifteen rooms, regardless. Now I make $14.60 an hour, with a wage increase of thirty cents every six months.”

 

Lupe Luna added “there are less injuries, and when there is an injured housekeeper, the family loses (a breadwinner), and the state has to pay disability.”

 

Luna added that for Alma Romero, one of the hunger strikers we have talked about in previous blog posts, this is her second hunger strike. She was at the Westin LAX.

 

So what about San Diego? What are the conditions of a Union Hotel in San Diego? According to Tomasina Diaz, who works at the Mission Bay Hilton, and who’s been working there for eighteen years, conditions are night and day.

 

She makes $13.69/hour. Housekeepers have to do only fourteen rooms a shift. “There is quality control with inspections but problems are not automatic demerits that can lead to job loss.”

 

She even joked, “when all is done well, we even get a carne asada day.”

 

If there is any problem with management, a shop steward gets involved immediately. Also “if management does any work that employees should do, this can be raised to management in a grievance process.” (For those not familiar with unions, if somebody in management does what workers are assigned, this is a complaint process that can lead to a small payment to the worker in compensation.)

 

These hotel employees also get medical insurance to the tune of $40.00/month.  Since this is San Diego, and this started back in 1995, they have the option of taking an insurance where the primary doctor and hospital is in Tijuana. Any emergency care will be done in the United States.

 

This is critical, “We feel protected, as long as we do our jobs well, there are no problems.” There is also respect for seniority, and a forty hour week. Rarely, and this is very rare, there is also overtime. If that is the case, there are no games.

 

As far as the kitchen staff is concerned, there are always enough cooks to meet the demand of the customer.

 

Now contrast this with the perceived need by  Pedro’s wife to get cleaning supplies herself, to make sure the rooms smell nice. “My wife buys fabuloso and cleaning sponges, since she wants to do her job right. They don’t provide her with this, but require it.” 



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