A long-term labor dispute between UNITE HERE Local 49 and the Hilton Sacramento Arden West got even more heated on October 13, when 150 workers and community supporters picketed in the street in front of the hotel for over an hour, and eight protesters were arrested for refusing to move when asked by police to clear the street.
This struggle has been ongoing since the last union contract expired in May of 2009. After months of difficult negotiations, the old owner of the Hilton implemented a contract proposal in January 2010 that stripped away benefits that workers had struggled for years to build. Many workers lost their medical insurance, and all workers lost their pension contributions. Housekeepers saw a significant increase to their workload, and many suffer regularly from work-related pain and injuries and have to take painkillers every few hours just to make it through the day.
Workers responded by authorizing a boycott in February 2010, and ever since have been doing regular demonstrations in front of the hotel and contacting clients to urge them to honor the boycott.
In April of this year, a new owner, Westmont, acquired the Hilton after the old owner had stopped paying their debt on the hotel. But Westmont has done little to improve the situation; their contract proposal would keep workers without their pension contributions, keep many without medical insurance, and keep housekeepers with the most demanding workload of all union hotels in Sacramento.
Nelson Hernandez, a cook with 15 years of service at the hotel:
All we want is what every other Union hotel worker in Sacramento has: a fair contract. If every other union hotel in Sacramento can do it, why not ours?
The added attention by the media on the civil disobedience action promises to make the boycott even more successful and move the Hilton workers closer to winning the fair contract they deserve.
Hugo Calderon, a 10-year banquet server at the hotel:
We are fighting for the benefits that we need to live and care for our families. We are not going to stop.