Supporters of workers denied their lawful pay were outside the Emeryville Woodfin Suites Hotel again Saturday morning delivering a "wake-up call" from a colorful picket line. Inside, members of the Institute of Management Consultants were holding a conference.
The hotel has been ordered by Superior Court Judge Steven Brick to pay some $200,000 in back wages to workers to bring the hotel into line with the East Bay city's living wage ordinance passed by referendum in 2005. Instead of complying, the hotel has tried to sic immigration authorities on the housekeepers it refuses to pay, tried and failed to overturn the law in the courts, and just days ago presented the city of Emeryville with a preposterous bill for $500,000 in legal fees for the litigation it has repeatedly lost.
The East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy which was instrumental in passing the original wage ordinance has organized a boycott in supporter the workers.
The ongoing struggle at the Woodfin points up again two reforms that the 2008 Democratic campaign seemed to promise -- and which so far have gotten no action from Obama and the Congress:
- Labor law reform that would put some teeth into worker's theoretical right to form a union to bargain for them. As it stands, existing labor law is so weak that companies can simply treat any costs of violating standards or firing labor sympathizers as a minor cost of doing a profitable business.
- Fair immigration reform that would bring undocumented workers out of the anxious shadows via a formal path to legalization. Huge numbers of the low wage work force are currently undocumented and employers find that a benefit as most dare not complain about any abuses they suffer in the workplace. The whole society suffers when millions of workers cannot complain when mistreated by their bosses.