Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pink-collar workers tired of being nickeled and dimed

2006 could be an exciting year in labor issues, thanks to UNITE-HERE, an umbrella labor group that represents hotel workers, textile workers, and restaurant workers. From their website:
UNITE HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of UNITE HERE members are women.
The LA Times reports on the coming renegotiation of labor contracts for these vulnerable workers:
The focus of the union campaign, which also includes stops by former senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards and actor Danny Glover at rallies in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston this week, is to highlight the working and living conditions of hotel employees such as housekeepers, bell staff and restaurant workers. Union officials said they hoped to lift workers, who often make little more than minimum wage, into the middle class. According to Unite Here, the average hourly wage in nonunion hotels is $7 to $8 versus $15 where workers are unionized.
The reason that this is such a big fuss is that all of the groups under the UNITE-HERE banner have contracts that are set to expire this year, so a strike could absolutely cripple the tourism industry in this country, which is seeing recovery since 9/11.

After having read Nickeled and Dimed, and knowing the atrocious labor practices employed by Sodexho (the foodservice company that feeds the University of Idaho), I find this to be exciting news. And Democrats ought to be thanking their lucky stars that UNITE-HERE is organizing this effort in an election year. Republicans have already vowed to make national security the theme of this year's elections, but this is a golden opportunity to get domestic issues like labor, pay, and gender issues (on which Democrats stand to win big) back in the spotlight.

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