Hint to union organizers hunting for the workers who'll fight to the end against the bosses: look for the people who seem proudest of their work!
Last week I attended a couple of labor-sponsored events where this was obvious.
Luz Dominguez is a housekeeper for the Woodfin Suites Hotel in Emeryville, California. She cleans guest bathrooms and changes beds every working day. In 2005, she was honored as Woodfin's worker of the year. But when employees insisted on being paid under the terms of the city's Living Wage Ordinance, passed by the voters in 2005, suddenly Dominguez was expendable. Nobody questioned her immigration status until she started demanding her rights under the law.
Woodfin has now gone to court to try to get the Living Wage law declared unconstitutional. So far, the workers remain on the job under an injunction issued in January that gave the city time to investigate whether the workers had suffered illegal retaliation.
This gentleman, whose name I couldn't catch at a community forum because he spoke in Chinese and the translator didn't spell it, works for Guckenheimer, the giant food service contractor. Guckenheimer supplies the cafeteria labor at Silicon Valley companies like Genentech, Electronic Arts, Gilead, EFI, SRI, and Roche. This worker has been with the company for 5 and half years. He thought he had a great job as a driver, until one day, with no warning or explanation, they made him a dishwasher. He was afraid to question, because he needed the job -- but the arbitrary move made him angry.
After being treated that way, he became a labor activist with the Service Workers Rising campaign of the union UNITE-HERE. The workers are seeking a code of conduct that respects them as people and family members who are committed to doing their jobs. If you listen to them at all, it is clear that respect and knowing they will not suffer from arbitrary actions by supervisors matter to them as much as the higher wages they need to get by.