UNITE HERE, the union representing hotel workers, kicked-off its Hotel Workers Rising campaign yesterday in San Francisco. This is a nationwide campaign positioning the union to negotiate from a position of strength when its contracts with major hotel chains expire in six major U.S. cities this year. Hotel workers in San Francisco have been working without a contract since 2004, when workers were victims of a lockout.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel housekeepers nationwide earn an average of $8.67 per hour, or approximately $18,000 per year for full-time employment. Unionized hotel workers earn closer to $13 per hour. Profitable hotel chains like Hilton, which earned $238 million in net revenues in 2004, should pay their employees a living wage with benefits as a matter of justice. The union is wise to adopt a nationwide strategy so as to leverage its power against transnational corporations that try to force a piecemeal approach to contract negotiations; a divide and conquer strategy. The globalization of finance and capital must be met by the globalization of labor organizing, else we will see a continuing "race to the bottom" as corporations seek to exploit cheaper labor markets.
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. The Book of Common Prayer, p. 259.