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Published on June 4, 2010 in Victories

Over the past year, CLUE has contributed to significant victories for tens of
the thousands of low-wage workers (60,000 grocery workers, 4000+ security
officers, 8000+ janitors, 1000+ hotel workers). CLUE’s contributions have
reflected the diverse strategies we have developed under the rubric of faith-rooted
organizing in support of worker justice.

On Century Boulevard, CLUE’s committee of religious leaders has accompanied
worker leaders through house visits, prayer and spiritual reflection at
worker meetings, public actions, street theater and presence at the bargaining
table. Religious leaders have also taken direct action to advocate for
workers in the form of delegations, letters and phone calls to hotel management.
The result has been new union contracts at two hotels (Sheraton Gateway
and Sheraton Four Points) and productive bargaining processes expected
to lead to new contracts soon at two more hotels (Westin Los Angeles Airport
and Radisson LAX). These four contracts will contribute substantially to
lifting nearly 1000 workers out of poverty, with substantial wage increases
and a commitment to employer-paid family health coverage phasing in over
the life of the contract. In an area dominated by the airport and hospitality
industry, with high rates of working poverty even for Los Angeles, this
is will represent a substantial boost to an entire impoverished community.

  • In Glendale, religious leaders took the lead in pressing the surrounding
    community to support a worker-initiated boycott at the Glendale Hilton.
    When new owners of the hotel signed a contract with their workers and the
    boycott officially ended, workers and management alike spoke to the critical
    role of the religious community in bringing moral authority to the cause
    of the workers and moral support to the worker leaders in their long struggle.
  • At the Wilshire Plaza Hotel, support from the local religious community
    was critical in sustaining workers through a tremendous sacrifice. The
    Wilshire Plaza owner had unilaterally terminated the union contract at
    the hotel, ceased paying into the workers’ health and welfare benefit fund,
    and cut most workers’ pay to close to the minimum wage. These actions were
    eventually found to be illegal, and workers received court orders for injunctive
    relief going forward and back pay for lost wages and benefit. The legal
    process took more than a year, however, and had a significant number of
    workers left their jobs in the meantime, it would have been easy for the
    owner to decertify the union in spite of the legal decisions. Workers at
    the Wilshire Plaza had to hold out for justice at great cost to their families,
    and they testify that they could not have done it without the support –
    both material and spiritual – that they received from the religious community.
    In addition to supporting the workers with regular public actions, gifts
    of food, clothing and toys, referrals to local services, and ongoing chaplaincy,
    religious leaders pursued aggressive direct advocacy with the hotel owner
    and management, and were eventually the first group to obtain a meeting
    with the hotel’s general manager. It was this meeting between the clergy
    and the manager that put the Wilshire Plaza back on the road to negotiations
    between the workers’ union and the management. Those negotiations continue
    as the legal issues are settled.
  • More than 4000 Security Officers won union recognition in 2007 and signed
    a first contract in 2008. The contract will raise wages by as much as 40%
    over five years and make health coverage accessible to Security Officers
    and their families for the first time ever. Religious leaders organized
    by CLUE have stood with them at each step of the way, from public demonstrations
    to the bargaining table.
  • In July 2007, Sixty thousand grocery workers around Southern California
    succeeded in eliminating a two-tier employment system that severely limited
    new hires’ access to health benefits and higher-wage positions. The LA
    Times coverage of the contract cited the workers’ ability to claim religious
    community support as a key factor in pushing the supermarket chains to
    settle the contract, rather than forcing a devastating strike or lockout,
    as happened in 2003-2004. As contract negotiations heated up, CLUE congregations
    hosted grocery workers and distributed and collected pledges not to shop
    during any strike or lockout. CLUE leaders spoke out on the negative impact
    of the two-tier system on the local economy and the connection between
    increasingly poor working conditions in the grocery industry and lack of
    access to quality food in low-income communities. CLUE is now involved
    in a new coalition campaign to insist that UK-based grocery retailer TESCO
    sign a community benefits agreement guaranteeing decent, living-wage jobs
    among other things, as it makes a major move into the Southern California
    market.
 
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