[Marxism] UNITE-HERE pushes affirmative action in hotels

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 12 07:55:51 MST 2006


This follows up on a similar effort by the union in LA. An interesting  approach: while fighting for the rights of a mostly immigrant  workforce, the union makes special efforts to rebuild the  African-American component of the workforce.
  
  No such effort was made in garment in the 1960s. The employers there  knew (as the editorial below makes clear) that Blacks were more likely  to be militant, and the ILGWU, as Herbert Hill has documented, refused  to adequately represent their interests -- or those of the newer  immigrant workers. As a result what had been the highest paid  industrial workforce in the country became the lowest.
  
  Found at kclabor.org/news.htm
  
  http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2006/12/11/african_americans_need_apply/
    
    
      
                  African-Americans need apply      Boston Globe      THE NUMBER of African-American hotel workers across the United States appears to be falling at the same time that foreign-born hospitality workers are rising into the middle class. The disappearing African-American hotel worker is just one of many problems that perpetuates an urban underclass. But it is a problem, at least, that a fast-growing, private sector union wants to tackle.            December 11, 2006  -->    GLOBE EDITORIAL
  Boston Globe Editorial  African-Americans need apply      December 11, 2006
  THE NUMBER of African-American hotel workers across the United  States appears to be falling at the same time that foreign-born  hospitality workers are rising into the middle class. The disappearing  African-American hotel worker is just one of many problems that  perpetuates an urban underclass. But it is a problem, at least, that a  fast-growing, private sector union wants to tackle.
  John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here, which represents roughly  200,000 unionized hotel workers across the United States, says that new  immigrant populations, including black workers from the Caribbean, have  been replacing African-Americans in hotel service jobs for about a  decade. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, say local union officials,  African-Americans now comprise only about 6 percent of workers in  downtown hotels. Without access to comprehensive hiring data from hotel  management , says Wilhelm, shop stewards in Boston and across the  country are now surveying their individual hotels to compile figures on  African-American hiring.
  Wilhelm says some of the decline might reflect perceptions among  African-Americans that the hotel industry offers "dead end jobs." But  he also fears that hotel operators who praise the work ethic of new  immigrants may actually be more interested in hiring workers who are  less likely to know and assert their rights than people born in the  United States. So at collective bargaining tables around the country,  including Boston, union negotiators are calling for the creation of  committees composed of hotel workers, community leaders, and hotel  managers to determine the extent of the problem and craft solutions.
  Wilhelm says he is "astonished" by hotel executives who resist the  creation of such working groups. Last month, contract negotiations in  Boston erupted into a heated exchange on the issue after union  officials claimed that only 32 African-Americans out of 1,308 employees  held jobs in three Starwood-operated downtown hotels. Bob Batterman,  the hotel industry negotiator, pegs the figure at roughly 200  African-Americans working at four downtown Starwood hotels. Though the  numbers dispute could crop up again in negotiations scheduled for  today, Batterman says that Boston hotels "are prepared to do whatever  outreach is necessary" to underrepresented groups.
  Strict racial quotas are unwise. Yet mere outreach efforts often  lack teeth. A plan with goals and timetables, however, could still  emerge from the committees. But first, the hotels need to share their  data with the unions, to get a common understanding on the depth of the  problem. Then African-Americans who shun hotel jobs might warm to the  fact that, in an industry where managers prefer to promote from within,  there really are no dead-end jobs. 

    
  
  
 
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