Would you go on strike for six months?

During my recent holiday across USA my thoughts centred on where are we, be ready on time and what are we going to eat? However, upon reaching Chicago the question changed to ‘Would I go on strike for six months?’.

Our tour group arrived at the railway station in Chicago and were met by two members of UNITE HERE 1 who wanted to inform us of the picket line at the Cambria Hotel.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers in Chicago and Northwest Indiana and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, which represents approximately 300,000 hotel, food service, and gaming workers throughout the United States and Canada. Membership is composed predominantly of women, immigrants, and people of colour.

The Cambria is the only remaining Chicago hotel not to settle with workers despite 25 other hotels coming to an agreement.

Initially a citywide 26-hotel strike began in September 2018 and after three weeks many hotels acquiesced with the remaining, other than Cambria, forming agreements over the next weeks.

Cambria will not sign a contract unless the members agree that women housekeepers, who already work in pain, clean more rooms. None of the other 25 hotels that settled the strike increased housekeeping workload.

Housekeepers report experiencing pain from lifting mattresses, pushing supply carts or from the repetitive motions associated with cleaning hotel rooms, and see the employers demands as highly unreasonable.

Fortunately, our tour operator had already known of the industrial action and had changed the booking to another hotel. As a committed unionist would I have crossed the picket line if my hotel booking had remained at the Cambria?

I didn’t have to answer the question, but we did choose to walk down to the picket line, tell the unionists of our admiration, wish them well and promise to let people in Australia know.

Do you value your union and hold sacred our right to have a union?

Searching for an ice cream after many hours of experiencing the magnificent Niagara Falls from both sides of the border, we came upon another industrial action underway since 9 April. This action concerned the right to have a unionised workforce.

Workers at the Rainforest Café have been seeking a first collective agreement with their employer for over a year. Members of the Workers United Canada Council were asking members of the public to boycott Rainforest Café Niagara and other nearby businesses which are owned by the same parent company (franchisor) Landry.

Workers at the Rainforest Café Niagara hope to win and possibly be the first Landry’s restaurant to have a union. The boycott has the full backing of the Ontario Federation of Labour https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/05/09/1820537/0/en/BREAKING-Ontario-Federation-of-Labour-announces-boycott-of-Canadian-Niagara-Hotels.html

The goals of the campaign are: a voice on the job over wages, benefits and working conditions, an end to tolerance for sexual harassment, an end to bullying management, the protections in a union contract from unfair discipline and a fair tip policy (management wants to accrue part of the tip).

Adhering to the boycott, we sought the name of an ice cream shop not under boycott, indulged in our sweet treat, and thanked our lucky stars about the ease of obtaining union membership in Australia.

Patricia Murnane
Teacher at McCarthy Catholic College Emu Plains, Member of IEUA NSW/ACT Executive