Mar102011

Hilton Hotel Union Workers Gain Contract, Public Workers Continue to Lose Ground

This has been a strange week for union labor in America.

Hilton Hotels unionized workers in  San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu come away with a new favorable contract that keeps worker health care costs in check and increases dental coverage and pension benefits. Housekeepers get reduced workloads when they have 10 or more checkouts. Non-tipped employees receive $2 an hour wage increases retroactive to August 2009. Hotel workers in San Francisco and Chicago have been without a union contract since August 2009.

The struggle for hotel employees continues as Starwood Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, and Intercontinental Hotels Group properties in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu still have not settled.

Perhaps Hilton’s move will hasten contract resolutions for workers in  the other unionized hotels in these cities. The hotel workers have struggled for 18 months for this resolution with Hilton Hotels. I hope the other hotel chains settle quickly.

Links: 

Hilton Hotels Contract agreement San Francisco: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/08/BUBG1I5L9A.DTL

Hilton Hotels Contract agreement Chicago: http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2011/03/union-approves-deal-with-local-hilton-hotels.html

My Solidarity with Wisconsin Public Employees

Public sector workers are rising up after last night’s political maneuver in Wisconsin strips public employee unions of many collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin public workers will see a rise in employee pension contributions and health care costs.

I dropped out of public school teaching in 2003. I have a graduate degree in Labor Studies and I follow the labor movement in the U.S. although I seldom write about the issues. This blog is not the most appropriate forum for a labor union discussion, but this is the most widely read platform I have to use  as an activist.

My interest over the past two decades has primarily focused on public sector unionism with specific attention to public school teachers. I have been a union member public school employee in three states. I have seen the public service sector union dismantling coming over the past 20 years. 

The corporatist agenda now hits home in the States. Michigan is poised to allow corporate takeover of cities and towns. Public schools, which for two hundred years were the domain of town and municipal governments, are now dominated by state and federal mandates.   

My hope was that I would be established in private sector self-employment prior to the privatization corporatist agenda iron fist coming down hard on our family. My wife is taking a beating as a public school teacher and union activist.

The public sector salary pay rises for many California public employees have all been erased by rising health care costs and job furlough days over the past couple of years. 2011 looks to be the worst year so far.

The push has been on for over 20 years to privatize public education. The slow progress on shifting public schools to privatized charter schools financed with public funds has been too slow. The legislation for No Child Left Behind made great progress in the past decade by funneling billions of dollars of taxpayer money into major corporate test-design companies like Harcourt, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Riverside and Pearson and targeting schools for corporate takeover when tests results are poor.

I worked for CTB in Monterey as a mathematics test editor in 2004-2005. I would like to point out that I received indirectly tax-payer-funded limousine rides when I traveled to states as a test editor designing standardized tests for elementary school students. Billions of public dollars go to testing corporations to create those annual standardized tests that state legislatures seek to use as the primary criteria for an effective teacher. And during my time working as a test editor most of the corporate employees creating these standardized tests in Monterey were Kelly Service temporary employees with no job rights or benefits.

My wife does not even have a working clock in her public school classroom. She had to buy her own.  She takes our Costco Kirkland paper towels, markers and food to supply her classroom kids.  The cost of classroom supplies she has to furnish out of her paycheck keeps rising as her paycheck is cut due to the “budget crisis”.

There are many work-related sob stories around the U.S., but the working conditions in public schools are really hard to imagine if you have never experienced the environment. The media and legislatures love to lay blame on teachers, but I never have known a school to be run by the teachers.

Administrators are the management running the day-to-day organization of the schools.

Beyond the image of a highly paid babysitter is the reality that half of credentialed school teachers drop out of the profession within 5 years. The working conditions in public schools are miserable.  I can testify to that truth as someone who worked a decade in public school classrooms and two decades outside of school classrooms.

Crowd Power

Any call for corporate tax increases and the elimination of tax evasion loopholes or taxes on investment income dividends is resoundingly defeated by deep pocket corporate and wealthy individual funding for favorable political candidates and legislators.

I saw a survey a couple of years ago that showed most young Americans think they will be millionaires.

There really is a strong need for math teachers in U.S. schools.

Charging higher tax rates for a middle class family making $100,000 in wage income (up to 40% in CA between federal and state if you don’t own a house or business) compared to the tax rate on $75,000 in stock dividend income (15%) is a crazy system that does not benefit the vast majority of our population consisting of tens of millions of working people with $0 in investment income.

Unions can’t call for general strikes across different labor segments of the population or secondary boycotts. Taft-Hartley eliminated those rights in the 1940s after the labor troubles of the 30s shut down entire cities and transportation networks.

Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore has called for the public to organize for workers’ rights.

On Twitter use #MadNation and label your state affiliation as in #MadCA for California.

My favorite tweet I saw today is from Clara Jeffery, editor @MotherJones:

You know who’s good at outlasting temper tantrums? Teachers. #wiunion 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. ” This blog is not the most appropriate forum for a labor union discussion.”

    I totally agree. We can get that elsewhere and I come to places like this to get a break from those discussions.

    Thanks anyway.

  2. What can i say i totally disagree with you, but more importantly i now have lost interest in reading your “travel” blog.

  3. “I totally agree. We can get that elsewhere and I come to places like this to get a break from those discussions.”

    +1

    “What can i say i totally disagree with you, but more importantly i now have lost interest in reading your “travel” blog.”

    +1 to this one too.

    As I was reading the article above I had a number of responses that I could put here in the comments. However, I remembered that I come here (used to come here?) for travel related information and really don’t want to see this blog go further from that goal than it already has so decided not to respond.

  4. Thanks for your comments. Big fan of the blog. I agree that politics should be elsewhere but given your experiences I appreciate the comments.

    I am a former public school teacher that moved after a few years into the private sector. The pay is better, the working conditions are better, and I am in a more respected position.

    In my first year of teaching, I made 25k, INCLUDING pension benefits. The temp workers in my office make more than that.

    As we continue to beat down teachers and strip away their rights and benefits the best and brightest will keep opting out of the profession. Why put up with that when you can have a much more comfortable life elsewhere?

    The scapegoating of teachers that is going on right now is outrageous. I’ve told my former colleagues to GET OUT, they don’t deserve this kind of treatment. It’s going to get uglier, I’m afraid.

  5. Not travel for sure, but interesting nonetheless.
    Shan’t put me off from reading what is a great blog.

  6. Kudos for having the courage to speak up. My wife and I both spent our careers in public education, in Canada, so we know of what you speak. The situation is (not yet) as dire as in America, but whatever happens there, usually finds its way north eventually.

    It’s unfortunate that some of your readers want to compartmentalize their world and believe that their economic choices (including travel) have no consequences for others.

  7. @Aeneas,

    Your comment about compartmentalization and the “consequences” of our economic choices is off-base and irrelevant to what the other posters said above. Bottom line, this blog post is very off-topic, quite outrageous (channeling Michael Moore?!?!), and even foolish.

    To everyone else, if you didn’t know, this blogger, along with all of the other Boarding Area bloggers, gets a commission based on the number of page views and RSS feeds each month. Show your “unsupport” for this behavior and delete the bookmark for this blog and/or unsubscribe to the RSS feed.

  8. @Aeneas,

    I didn’t elaborate, but there’s a reason I’m delighted to read a travel blog as a break from political discussions. Political discussions invariably devolve into personal attacks about previous posters, including the assumptive attribution of beliefs.

  9. Appreciated Ric’s thoughts, and have to disagree with the people who thought they were inappropriate. It’s Ric’s house, and he provides folks with free content every single day, including in-depth analyses that aren’t found anywhere else. If he wants to share his thoughts on something important, that’s his right.

    (not a union member, nor is anyone in my family, but I think it’s wrong to stifle discussion of important issues)

  10. What a disappointment today’s homily was. Stick to what you do best and why we visit your site. Leave your political agenda and views off this site. Very disappointing.

  11. All these comments on a nontravel post makes me wish readers had the same initiative to comment more on my travel posts.

    I have always had a political voice and that voice appears now and then in Loyalty Traveler blog.

    You can take this blogger out of the union, but you can’t take the union out of this blogger.

    One of the major problems we face in the U.S. is the lack of open political dialog.

    My agenda is not a mission to convert anyone to my viewpoint. I want to share info with people. You might not be interested in my political voice just like you might not be interested in Voila Hotel Rewards or Wyndham Rewards. I figure every article I write is likely of minimal interest to a large portion of my audience. We all have our preferences.

    The type of analysis I apply to hotels and the hotel industry is the logic I apply to many other facets of living. I am looking at ways to let more people benefit and live better by knowing more about how systems and organizations operate around us.

    Union activism earned me a fully paid fellowship through graduate school, an invitation to the White House, and loads of frequent flyer miles as I traveled across the U.S for several years.

    I wouldn’t rule out that activism is what I do best.

  12. Ric, I applaud you for speaking up on this important issue. The very comments reacting to your post prove once again that respectful political discourse is now nearly impossible. As someone right in the heart of what is playing out in WI right now, it is so disappointing to see so many people comment on something they clearly know nothing about, but rather spew Faux News talking points.

    Hopefully you gain 2 like-minded viewers of your blog for every “conservative” viewer you lose. (Although we know they’re not going anywhere – your blog’s just too good!)

  13. Ric’s analyses of the relative value of hotel rewards points are the most valuable posts at boardingarea.com. Some of the other bloggers post mainly fluff. Next, Ric’s labor sentiments are generally on target. As a public sector employee, I do think they came on a little strong in this particular post however. Maybe a stand-alone post would have been better?

  14. Ric, thank you for the great blog and your thoughts about workers is appreciated. To clarify things, first of all, I am not a laborer or a union member, but I feel that the American workers are paying for the sins of our society. This economic crisis we are in right now was brought about by Wall St. and its speculators, the greedy bankers, and their cronies: the lobbyists and the politicians. The Wisconsin and other workers showed up to work and did their job everyday and now their rights and benefits are being stripped away to make up for the deficits others created … while the Wall St. scum and their benefactors the greedy self-serving politicians, who got us into this mess to begin with, are still drawing their inflated salaries and sky-rocketing bonuses. They are doing away with a great part of our middle class … once the middle class is gone, America will turn into another third world country with only rich and poor classes exist. This is obscene and no one is standing up and saying anything about it … shame on all of us!

    The above posters who claim (which I don’t believe) that they will boycott this blog, it’d be their loss. Yours is the blog with the most comprehensive travel industry analysis and hospitality information. I have personally benefited from reading your blog without paying a penny. So, if you are making money off of me, it’s more than well-deserved.

    Thank you again for speaking up and keep up the good work.

  15. I wish I had written a better piece here since this post gained so much attention. I can’t even blame beer since this was a 7am-9am rant on a Thursday morning fueled by coffee and anger.

    I do want to clarify that when I say working conditions at schools are miserable that I do not mean the students. The kids are the primary joy of being a teacher.

    I have taken a break from Loyalty Traveler for a few days and I’ve been working in a public school. Students must be assessed.

    And one of the great difficulties in the organization of the school day and the skeleton staff left to run public schools these days is the time and appropriate environment to test kids. So I volunteer to help test students on a regular basis.

    Kids love it when a new adult comes around to help at school. There just are not enough people working in schools. The children deserve better.

  16. Thanks Jon (The Daily Show) and Stephen (Colbert Report) for reinforcing all my main talking points (with some humor) from this blog post in your shows on March 28.

Comments are closed.