Hotel Workers Won a Living Wage– Now What?

Nov. 29, 2012 / By

It was about 9 p.m. on election night at Pizza Pi Restaurant on Broadway and Lime.

A vibe of mixed feelings was dwelling around the room, when supporters of Measure N started to clap. It wasn’t long before the room went into a joyful uproar.

Community volunteers and full-time canvassers gave each other high-fives, and hotel workers began to give each other hugs. As everyone starts clapping in unison, a campaign volunteer from the crowd yells “Si se puede, si se puede!” (Yes we can!)

While feelings of joy and celebration mixed with beer and pizza and many sighed a relief of months of hard work, everyone knew there was still work to be done.

It has been weeks after Measure N was overwhelmingly passed by the people of Long Beach, but the reality is, much of the community it affects has yet to be informed about its specifics and that will actually take a lot more effort.

Measure N guarantees hotel workers a living wage of at least $2,000 a month, five paid sick days and 100 percent tip protection. Ultimately, it came down to the progressive labor movement and other community social justice based organizations in Long beach versus the ideologically driven business sector.

Despite the excitement, community members expect that some hotels will be intimidating the workers and be resistant to paying the living wage.

At a worker’s debrief meeting on Nov. 15 at Grace United Methodist Church, workers and allies came together to discuss the next steps and some of the challenges facing the community when the law is fully implemented.

 

“Law is one thing, but getting their rights bestowed by the law is different,” said Grace United Methodist Church Pastor Nestor Gerente, who is one of the key leaders in the interfaith and church community.

If the hotels refuse to comply with the living wage ordinance, the bigger hotels will be forced to go into collective bargaining agreements, so many workers will have to debate the importance of forming unions in non-union hotels.

Since the measure passed, community members and union workers have been giving out flyers in front of the 16 hotels that will be affected by the measure to inform Long Beach hotel workers about the new Living Wage.

They hope this will ensure that these big hotels honor this policy by guaranteeing and fully implementing what the policy states, but that may take some time.

“The next step will be to inform some of our co-workers,” said Romeo Trinidad, a Filipino hotel housekeeper who has been working at the Hilton Long Beach for 12 years and is on MediCal. “Some are not aware of the Measure still, and some do but don’t think that it will pass. We are going to tell them that it is already voted on and we won!”

[pullquote]“The next step will be to inform some of our co-workers,” said Romeo Trinidad, a Filipino hotel housekeeper who has been working at the Hilton Long Beach for 12 years and is on MediCal. “Some are not aware of the Measure still, and some do but don’t think that it will pass. We are going to tell them that it is already voted on and we won!”[/pullquote]

Trinidad is currently being supported by the state, but the dreams and aspirations of his family go beyond a living wage.

“With a Living Wage and a little bit in my pocket, I can get off medical and spend more of my money towards providing the needs for my daughters”, says Romeo Trinidad.

He is also counting on the youth. Many of those who have helped to get the meaure passed were young people, and some are the children of hotel workers. “

“They are the ‘pag-asa ng bayan’ (Hope of the people!),” Trinidad said.

About 63 percent of registered Long Beach voters voted in favor of a living wage, according the L.A. County Registrar. The measure will be up for the city council to adopt at its next meeting on Dec. 11.

A two-thirds majority of the nine-member city council stood behind the measure and released a letter of support to make sure that hotels pay their workers a just wage.

“I really want to acknowledge the hotel workers, who have really taken a courageous step not only come out to support a Living Wage, but to say something needs to change!” said Nikole Cababa, an organizer with LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy) and organizer with the Yes On Measure N Campaign. “Whether you were talking to your loved ones, your co-workers you made a difference here today! SI SE PUEDE!”

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Joshua Jimenez

Joshua Jimenez

Joshua Jimenez is a 21 year old Filipino-American, born and raised on the Eastside of Long Beach. Growing up on the Eastside was rough, especially for Joshua. Growing up in gangs, drugs, and seeing struggle with his close friends and family. It wasn't until he started getting involved with the Filipino community that he was getting in touch with his culture. He now educates and organize the Filipino youth and his peers about their culture and the issues we all face in our community. Joshua wants to use his passion of film-making and making documentary films about the stories of working class people in his community, especially giving voice to the working class Filipinos in the city of Long Beach.