About 300 people supported workers at the Woodfin Suites Hotel by joining in a spirited labor-community march to an Emeryville City Council meeting Monday night.
The story of these housekeepers and room cleaners is depressingly simple. In 2005, by a ballot initiative, the town adopted a living wage ordinance for hospitality industry workers. In 2006, the Woodfin tried to escape paying the mandated wage by questioning the workers' right to work in the U.S. -- something management had never previously cared about. A year later, Emeryville had investigated the business, ordered the hotel to pay up, and gone to court to force compliance. Last April, an Alameda County judge upheld the living wage law. The city again ordered the Woodfin to pay up. No money has been forthcoming, so once again workers and friends tromped back to the Emeryville Council.
And the hotel keeps stalling.
This story points up some of the "change we need" to push for as the new regime takes over in Washington.
- Workers need to be able to form unions and bargain with their employers without fear of losing their jobs. That means better appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, but even more it means Congress passing the Employee Free Choice Act and President Obama signing it. This will be a hard fight, but nothing could help more to ensure that the people who do the work get their fair share of the American dream.
- We need a fair immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship for the millions of workers, already here, who contribute so much of the labor in hospitality, food service, construction and food processing. So long as they subsist in a legal twilight, they will be exploited and abused. The immigration fight is even harder than the labor law reform fight.