Labor Roundup | October 2018

UNITE HERE and five other unions prevailed in bargaining with Walt Disney World, announcing early last month that they’d reached agreement for a 50 percent pay increase bringing the corporation’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by October 2021, plus a $1,000 bonus promised but previously withheld.

“These union raises will be life-changing for the women and men who welcome millions of tourists to Walt Disney World,” said Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union there. “Now, money that tourists spend here in central Florida will stay here, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into local small businesses.”

2018 election “is all about power,” said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich during a mass AFL-CIO teleconference call Aug. 29. He said unionists must use the election – and convince other voters to use it – to yank influence back from the corporate elite.
“The nation is at a turning point,” warned Reich, Labor Secretary during the Clinton administration. “We just can’t go on with almost all of the economic gains going to a handful at the top and most workers getting very little. Our economy can’t survive this. Our politics can’t survive it. Our society and our ideals of freedom and equal opportunity can’t survive this, which is why you are so important – why unions are critical for the future.”

Reich said it’s not just a matter of battling fear and intimidation, but also a need to battle corporate clout. “Power has shifted over the last 50 years away from workers and to employers,” he said. “It’s why you have a $7.25 [national] minimum wage,” which he called “wholly inadequate.”

And it’s why “you have wage theft, why worker safety is being compromised and why so much goes to the 1 percent.”

Almost 8,000 UNITE HERE Marriott Hotel workers from Honolulu to Boston at press time were striking or taking strike-authorization votes, with living wages and workplace safety the major issues.

In Chicago, unionists last month went on strike at 25 hotels, from the JW Marriott, Hilton Chicago and Drake to the Palmer House, Hyatt Regency Chicago and Sheraton.

Nationally, membership votes by workers at 20 other hotels with thousands of unionized employees were scheduled, the union said.

Previous contracts have expired and bargaining continues. But the firm – the world’s largest and most-profitable hotel chain – has refused to recognize its role as the industry leader and use it to improve wages and working conditions. The workers “don’t earn enough to live on,” said union president Donald “D” Taylor.

Workers also demand better job safety, “particularly around unsafe workloads and strenuous physical labor created by the so-called ‘Green Choice’ program, and pioneering job protections around technology and innovation in the hospitality industry,” the union added.

“Across North America, union workers are ready to fight back against a rigged economy that left working-class families behind for too long now,” Taylor said. “Our members are proud of the exceptional guest service they provide the people who stay in our hotels, but 8,000 Marriott workers are ready and prepared to strike to secure their fair share from a highly profitable company receiving major tax handouts from Donald Trump while workers struggle to get by.”

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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