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On the picket line

September 24, 2004 | Page 15

Wilshire Grand Hyatt Hotel
By Karl Swinehart

LOS ANGELES--Seventeen workers at the laundry of the Wilshire Grand Hyatt Hotel found themselves locked out September 17 in the wake of union votes authorizing hotel strikes in LA, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The Wilshire Grand Hyatt workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 11, a product of the recent union merger.

The workers have joined their brothers and sisters in the newly merged local in escalating actions as a part of negotiations between their union and nine LA County hotels. The lockout comes in the wake of a strike authorization vote taken by the 2,800 workers in their union. The authorization passed overwhelmingly.

The president of UNITE HERE Local 11, María Elena Durazo, told the Los Angeles Times that the hotel "is trying to provoke a citywide strike." "It was a surprise for us because we were in negotiations, and they didn't need to lock us out. They gave us no warning," said Rosa Olivares, 57, who has worked in the laundry for 32 years.

When asked whether or not this lockout might lead to a strike, Olivares told Socialist Worker, "If they don't give us our jobs back, we will need to ask for that level of help from our compañeros." However, it's unclear what the response of the union will be.

The lockout is a skirmish in a much bigger battle--a fight by UNITE HERE to win a common contract expiration date in 2006 in LA, Washington and San Francisco in order to rebuild pattern bargaining in the hotel industry. Strikes or lockouts are possible in any--or all three--cities at any time, and the Wilshire Grand Hyatt lockout was a clear provocation by management.

The day after the lockout, there was only a small picket of 20 workers in front of the hotel, however. If the hotel workers are going to win this battle, the hotel owners will need to hear a stronger message.

University of Washington
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--More than 100 members of the University of Washington (UW) Chapter of SEIU Local 925 picketed the University of Washington Board of Regents meeting September 17. Negotiations for a new two-year contract for 6,000-plus UW workers must be completed by October 1 to be funded.

The administration is still insisting on takeaways and offering small annual wage increases of 2 percent and 1.5 percent. After picketing , the members filled the regents' meeting room and UW Chapter President Lisa Rankin presented the Board an official strike notice.

If no settlement is reached, there will be at least a one-day strike before October 1. Leaving the meeting, the picketers chanted loudly, " S-E-I-U" and "We'll be back!"

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