Workers’ Dignity in Action: Accelerating the Just Hospitality Campaign
Serving on the Steering Committee of Workers’ Dignity, we have had the opportunity to support other workers organizing for justice. In 2014, we witnessed several advances in the Just Hospitality campaign. Housekeepers won victories in an industry where many are denied their minimum rights as workers. Women, many of whom are mothers struggling to provide for their families, have played a central leadership role.
Workers’ Dignity stands as a voice for everyone who the employers have tried to keep in the darkness. We are like a school that uses educational workshops and builds relationships with worker centers and other organizations to organize our coworkers to solve problems facing our communities. We are confident that this snapshot of our victories in 2014 will inspire you to help us further grow.
Mariana López & Ricardo Flores
Our Mission: We are a worker-led center organizing for economic justice and dignity for all!
Just Hospitality Campaign
In 2014, Workers’ Dignity expanded Just Hospitality, our multi-year campaign to qualitatively improve wages and conditions among Nashville cleaning workers. In February, 11 housekeepers shook the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in the downtown tourist district, winning our first major victory of the year. Housekeepers won over $13,000 in unpaid wages and a hotel policy change that increased wages and benefits by anestimated $120,000 per year for about 30 workers.
“This was possible because we acted together, and made our work valued, we have rights as workers and need to be respected.” – Natalia Polvadera, DoubleTree housekeeper
In September, after a series of protests in front the Super 8 Airport Hotel to support one of our members, management conceded defeat. The company replaced the general manager, paid $4,400 in stolen wages, and offered a modest wage increase to housekeepers, boosting wages of 10 workers by a total of over $15,000 per year.
“This victory is for all workers at the hotel. They treated us wrong for so long at Super 8 and it wasn’t until I joined Workers’ Dignity and we stood up united that Super 8 decided to change.” – Froylán, member and hotel worker.
In October, housekeeping and laundry workers at the downtown Sheraton Hotel joined Just Hospitality after a cleaning agency hired by Sheraton did not pay a full month of wages. After four actions and other public pressure, 10 workers won the full wages they had demanded in December.
The victory was the final of several gains, including
Owners paid a portion of unpaid wages to about 50 workers after Workers’ Dignity held our first protest at the hotel (estimated $25,000 – $35,000).
Management fired Sheraton’s general manager.
The Sheraton and Holiday Inn Express Downtown owner changed its employment policy. Housekeepers and laundry staff now receive a modest benefit package, including paid time off. Wage and benefit increases, conservatively estimated, total about $234,000 for 75 workers.
“We know that this injustice is not a one-time thing. We know this happens to other workers elsewhere. And we will continue standing up.” – Fanny, member and Sheraton housekeeper
Cleaning workers held two assemblies to discuss common challenges, employer retaliation, and a list of demands for a Cleaning Workers Bill of Rights they will sign and publicly announce in 2015.
Members and Volunteers
In 2014, 100 low-wage laborers joined Workers’ Dignity as members. They organized coworkers to win back over $90,000 in stolen wages and improve pay and benefits in three hotels by $368,000 per year!
Workers’ Dignity expanded our Defend Your Rights trainings held in English, holding 12 workshops at the homeless shelter Room in the Inn, two historically Black churches, and in our organizing center. In December, we launched monthly membership meetings led by African American and other English-speaking members. This came on the heels of members’ trip to the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice in New Orleans to learn first-hand how they have built a multi- racial center that includes STAND with Dignity, a Black worker group.
Left, Workers’ Dignity member Chris facilitates a workshop. Above right, group photo after the second session.
Youth, Art, and Social Change
Youth, Art, and Social Change
Young people joined a 3-day workshop during winter break to make art social change. They wrote poetry, created posters, stenciled, painted, and made and played drums.
Women, Art, and Justice
Launched in 2013, we have continued bi-monthly gatherings to share experiences, skills, and activities among leaders and emerging leaders who are women.
Evan and Rosa were the first members to join our 12-week summer organizing program, which included trainings, outreach to cleaning workers, and strategy development.
Membership is open to all low-income workers who embrace our mission. We also seek allies as volunteers. There are many ways to pitch in. Contact us and learn more!
Steering Committee (Board) Members in 2014
Abraham Solomon, Aurelia Solano, Daniel López, Jairo Robles, John Taylor, Mariana López, Ricardo Flores, Patronilio García Reyes, Ben Wibking, Patrick Cate, Sara Zavaleta, Sarah Passino, Tristan Call.
Summer Leaders: Evan Regis, Rosa Ponce (12-week paid internship)
Training is a cornerstone of our work. 2014 highlights include:
Defend Your Rights
Over 600 workers were trained on how to defend their rights on the job. Eight members co-facilitated the workshops.
“Simply knowing our rights is not enough. We need to know that the key to defending our rights is unity. These workshops are spaces for us to explore ways to defend our own rights and gain confidence in solidarity with other workers.” – Kelly, member and former housekeeper
TN Workers Rising
Workers’ Dignity co-facilitated Tennessee’s first-ever bilingual worker organizing institutes, training 60 workers in Nashville and Knoxville in the spring and fall.
2nd Annual Justice Schools
30 workers participated in summer Justice Schools addressing root causes of economic exploitation and racial oppression, and social movements organizing for change.
Members stood with Black youth who led a series of local protest actions against racism and police brutality in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and others. We joined with fast food workers from Show Me $15 who led strikes in several Nashville restaurants. We also expanded the coalition of community and labor organizations who joined the 2nd Annual Labor Day Parade, launched by Workers’ Dignity in 2013.