Under fire, Speaker Jeff Merkley keeps his promise to the UniteHere Local 9

By Eryn Slack of Portland, Oregon. Eryn is a former Hilton hotel worker who now organizes hotel workers at UniteHere Local 9.

In late November, Speaker Jeff Merkley reached out to UniteHere Local 9 members.

He had heard these workers were struggling to negotiate a fair workload for housekeeping, a livable wage, job security, and union rights at the Portland Hilton and Executive Tower. We asked Speaker Merkley if he would endorse our boycott mailings to past, present and future Hilton guests that detailed our fight for justice.

Without hesitation, he agreed.

Did he know the heat he would take for his stance? I don't know. But heat he did feel. Some in the business community were upset that he was backing this action on the Portland Hilton.

I'm not a very political person, just a former Hilton waitress who recently came on staff to help the membership.

To be honest, I thought that with all the pressure he was getting he would take a step back from our controversial struggle. I was definitely wrong. Jeff told us that he made a promise to our members and he was standing beside the workers.

Just as things started to quiet down, there was an event at the Hilton that he had been scheduled to speak at. To his credit, Merkley refused to cross the labor dispute line. More heat. More phone calls.

UniteHere Local 9 is shaking up Portland. The workers are determined to raise the standards of their hotel and beyond. Our membership is unwavering.

We want to thank Speaker Jeff Merkley for standing with us, and the labor community, even when times got rough.

Comments

  • BCM (unverified)
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    "We want to thank Speaker Jeff Merkley for standing with us, and the labor community, even when times got rough."

    Times ARE rough Eryn!

    Smith: 39% Frohnmayer: 14% Merkley: 12% Undecided: 35%

  • LT (unverified)
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    Good for Jeff!

    At a memorial service for a friend who died this summer, it was pointed out that the union she belonged to decades ago as an organizer had become part of UniteHere.

    Eryn, I enjoyed reading this post because it sounds like the sort of thing my friend was involved in when she was younger.

    This, to me, is an example of the sort of folks who were in the Edwards target audience and were a major part of the backbone of the 20th century Democratic Party. These folks should not be ignored by other Democrats. actions (rather than words) which stand up for the little guy.

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    Good for Merkley. Really.

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    And I should say, good for Novick as well--since he refused to cross the same line for the same event. Kudos to both candidates!

  • undecided35% (unverified)
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    wait a second.

    KUDOS - to the workers at the hilton for continuing on without a contract and for their perseverance and also to eryn for all of her hard work

    Non-Kudos - keep merkley and novick outta this article. besides i already heard eryn give merkley a "kudos" on kboo the other night.

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    BCM with the same debunked phoney Riley poll.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    If you want a labor agreement w/the Hilton, by all means negotiate for it. Too bad Merkley is so unfamiliar with the National Labor Relations Act that he iunwittingly endorsed a secondary boycott in direct violation of that federal law.

    Is this someone we want representing us in th state or federal legislatures?

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    Posted by: Kurt Chapman | Jan 30, 2008 5:57:06 PM

    No he hasn't. Merkley refusing to cross a picket line to be at an event is not a secondary boycott violation of the NLRA.

  • John-Mark Gilhousen (unverified)
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    How supporting a boycott called by Hilton workers against Hilton could be construed as a prohibited "secondary" action under Taft-Hartley/Wagner completely escapes me.

    When negotiating fails, workers have to have other methods to employ, and deserve our support when they employ them.

  • David (unverified)
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    I think it is telling that he took the heat from the business community and stood up next to the workers. A lot of politicians would bail out the minute things got controversial.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Refusing to cross an informational picket; or even a work stoppage piket line doesn't constitute a secondary boycott. Merkley and any other citizen is well within the law by doing this.

    Endorsing a letter sent out carte blanche to past, present, and future Hilton Guests encouraging them to take their business elswhere is a secondary boycott and in direct contravention of the Wagner Act and NLRA.

  • Pennoyer (unverified)
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    torridjoe: "And I should say, good for Novick as well--since he refused to cross the same line for the same event."

    Are you sure, joe? Novick's website says he went to the event at the Hilton.

    Today Democratic Senate candidate Steve Novick will attend the Skanner 22nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and the 23rd annual "Keep Alive The Dream" Tribute in Portland to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    His website doesn't disclose where it was, but it was at the Hilton. If he actually went, he definitely crossed the picket line.

  • Shirley Burke (unverified)
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    I've been a bartender at the hilton and I think it's bad that people would knock other people for standing up for the workers at the Hilton Hotel which have probably waited on you more then once or cleaned you rooms when you stay there. Thanks goses out to Jeff,The Governor,Dan Gardner, Daine Rosenthraw, and all the Unions in the Portland area and all over the state for sighning your pledge forms and every one else I couldn't begin to write down. Thanks to all the compies that stand behind us even though I know it was an inconvience to have to change your parties else where. Shirley

  • checkyourfacts (unverified)
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    Kurt The letter sent out to Hilton guests, from how it sounds at least, was not telling them that their organizations would be boycotted. This WOULD be a secondary boycott. It sounds as though a letter was sent asking that they change future events to a new location and discontinue to patronize the Hilton until the workers have a new contract. Last I checked that is asking others to honor a boycott, not carrying out a secondary boycott. Let's get our facts straight, and not wrongly accuse people of illegal actions, especial when the person in question is so willingly doing the RIGHT thing.

  • Shirley (unverified)
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    Kurt have you seen the boycott notice or the pledge, if not maybe you should send your E mail address to [email protected] and she could send you a copy. everyone that sighned to support us knew what they wer signing before they did.

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    "Are you sure, joe? Novick's website says he went to the event at the Hilton."

    Yes, I'm sure.

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    "same debunked phoney Riley poll."

    By whom? On what grounds? I don't even know what "phoney" means in this context. Made up? Are you asserting he didn't actually conduct a survey?

    Whatever one might say about Riley's methods, they're consistent. And thus a drop in favor for Merkley from August to December would tend to have internal consistency. And if you're planning to try the "too many days" argument, please accompany it with the events during those "extra" days that potentially changed respondent sentiment.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "And thus a drop in favor for Merkley from August to December would tend to have internal consistency."

    Yeah, and at a time when so many people had to deal with snow at their home or on their commute today, what does that really matter?

    Lest anyone forget, the Oregonian was so proud of their polling that in 1992 they published 4 polls (4 diff. races) on their front page the day before the primary. ALL 4 WERE WRONG! Worst was the "doesn't have much chance" poll about the race which ended in a recount.

    More important to just get out there and campaign for your favorite candidate, rather than worrying about polls.

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 30, 2008 9:54:29 PM

    If true then I agree that props all around are in order. Fair is fair. And besides, given his track record it seems more plausible that Steve would honor the picket line than break it.

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    "Yeah, and at a time when so many people had to deal with snow at their home or on their commute today, what does that really matter?"

    I dunno, what does today's commute have to do with anything? You're free to decide the impact for yourself, but you're confusing predictive impact with reflective impact. The O's mistake was in assuming that point in time surveys necessarily predict future behavior. However, when you compare two point in time surveys done the same way, you can pretty safely analyze the trends from Point A to Point B. That's one of the things polling is very good at.

    I'm certainly not worried about the polls--especially when they show Merkley gaining no traction through 2007--I'm merely responding to the notion that the analysis on his comparative performance was "phoney" or had been "debunked."

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    "If true then I agree that props all around are in order."

    Unless they misunderstand what event is being referred to in this column, I'm assured by the campaign that Novick indeed respected the picket.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Respecting a picket line is something ordinary folks can understand.

    Makes more sense than jargon like "you're confusing predictive impact with reflective impact. "

    A famous campaign manager once said they most revealing poll question is ranking the candidates on a scale of "cares about people like me, understands my problems".

    My sense is that John Edwards would score at the top of that scale, maybe Obama not far behind. But who cares about polls this far before the Oregon primary?

    So much more fun to contemplate news stories like this:

    'Arrest' Bush Petition Ignites Firestorm By JOHN CURRAN,AP Posted: 2008-01-30 14:11:03

    BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (Jan. 30) - A town petition making President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney subject to arrest for crimes against the Constitution has triggered a barrage of criticism from people who say residents are "wackjobs" and "nuts."

  • Gene Debs (unverified)
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    Gov. Kulongoski, Rep. Blumenauer, Mayor Potter, and many State Legislators were also in attendance at the Martin Luther King Day. Mr. Novick was in good company.

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    "Makes more sense than jargon like "you're confusing predictive impact with reflective impact. ""

    That's not jargon, that's English. Are you saying you don't know what "predictive" and "reflective" mean? I gave you more credit than that. OK, then, how about "Polls aren't designed to predict the future, they are designed to reflect the past?" And that's why you would care about them this far off--not to find out where they will be, but where they have been.

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    Hey, I fixed the italics! Woot!

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    It was debunked on your own website back in Dec. when Frohnmayer newly adopted party hired to Riley to create this poll.

    It has as much credibility as an Amyway brochure.

  • LGJ (unverified)
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    Hey let's get back to the basics.

    I think it's about time UniteHere has become active in Portland. These huge globalized corporations need to be held accountable by the workers and the community. It sounds like the members at the Hilton are gonna take care of that. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT!

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    To amplify what checkyourfacts said:

    A secondary boycott is a boycott of a business or person who has dealings with an employer that is being struck (and I think also boycotted).

    So let's say a hotel being struck deals with a non-union linens company whose employees cross picket lines to make deliveries. Efforts to persuade those workers not to cross the lines would not be a secondary boycott. Efforts to persuade the public not to do business with the linen company unless it started honoring the picket lines would be one.

    So, as checkyourfacts says, asking potential guests not to stay at the Hilton is not a secondary boycott. But asking others not to have dealings with persons who became guests despite the request would be one.

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    It was debunked on your own website back in Dec. when Frohnmayer newly adopted party hired to Riley to create this poll.

    Uh, Mitch, I looked at the link you cited, and I think it would be fairer to say that the poll was discussed, analyzed, and even argued about, but hardly debunked.

    For example, the flat earth theory has been debunked. This poll is clearly controversial (for obvious reasons), but it is a misuse of the word to claim that it is debunked.

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    Posted by: LGJ | Jan 31, 2008 12:55:24 AM Hey let's get back to the basics. I think it's about time UniteHere has become active in Portland. These huge globalized corporations need to be held accountable by the workers and the community. It sounds like the members at the Hilton are gonna take care of that. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT!

    Hear, hear!

    You'd think some folks care more about maligning Merkley than they do the trials and tribulations of regular working stiffs just trying to earn a decent living.

    Priorites, people!!

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Novick, Merckley, and other candidates were among those demonstrating against for the Portland Public Schools custodians.

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    Novick, Merckley, and other candidates were among those demonstrating against for the Portland Public Schools custodians.

    Hey Robert, it's M-e-r-k-l-e-y.

    Probably picking a nit here. But...

    Carla--Netroots Outreach, Jeff Merkley for Oregon

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Hey Robert, it's M-e-r-k-l-e-y.

    Right, him too. That too tall guy, lacking a hard left hook. I knew that.

  • Shirley (unverified)
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    Thanks to everyone that surports UniteHere local 9.

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    I see a number of Merkley people trying to raise doubts in that thread Mitch, but no debunking. I eagerly look forward to seeing the mad spin job on another bad poll for Merkley out today...

  • Observer (unverified)
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    When one reads these comments, it's hard to escape the sense that this entire thing thread smells like a Merkley campaign action. With regard to the actual event, it appears that Merkley choose the photo-op of the two that would yield the most votes to his bottom line. Supporting working people is important, doing it in a way you don't dishonor other deeper values is the key. Merkley's entire legislative career has been unimpressive. Like this little tempest, the overall impression one is left with is that his decision making has mainly been about "what's good for Jeff", because he lacks the skills or interest to lead on principles in a way that would simply have the payback effect of being good for his political ambitions.

    Given the issues involved in this particular dispute, this little piece that came across the genuinely progressive literature I read, this said a lot to me: 2008's Ten Worst Places to be Black. Oregon is in that top 10 just ahead of Kentucky, which mainly is due to the contributions of the Portland metro area, and frankly I've seen little in Blue Oregon that can be objectively characterized as demonstrating the values and actions which would actually reverse this abysmal situation.

  • (Show?)

    frankly I've seen little in Blue Oregon that can be objectively characterized as demonstrating the values and actions which would actually reverse this abysmal situation.

    Observer Dude. Submit a guest post.

    The boys are always looking for new material, and if you've got some insight regarding the betterment of the discourse on Blue Oregon, I'm sure it will be welcome.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 31, 2008 9:06:57 AM I see a number of Merkley people trying to raise doubts in that thread Mitch, but no debunking. I eagerly look forward to seeing the mad spin job on another bad poll for Merkley out today...

    Are you talking about the new Riley poll?

    At a margin of error of 7% and 73% of Democrats undecided in the U.S. Senate Primary, that poll spins itself. Into irrelevancy, that is.

    Why does Riley even release this poll? It's sort of embarassing him.

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    why yes jack, that's the one. You're spinning away from the fact that what was billed by the pundits and even Merkley's negotiator Charlie Ringo as a race with only one "realistic" candidate, actually turns out to be completely wide open. This was supposed to be a walkover victory for him, a race where Novick simply can't compete. Yet where both men are known best, Novick actually appears favored, much less unrealistic. .

    Sorry if you thought I was going to talk about how Novick is winning. But in the expectations game, it couldn't be clearer that Merkley is losing--he's got a full fledged primary fight on his hands. Maybe he should finally start focusing on the job at hand?

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 31, 2008 11:25:41 AM You're spinning away from the fact that what was billed by the pundits

    Are you fucking kidding me? I didn't say anything about that. I said the poll spins itself because even Jeff Mapes recognizes the shoddy work done here by Mike Riley.

    You're the only one playing your new edition of 'Expectations Game Deluxe with your Host Mark Bunster'. It's not even a daft, cunning, or tricky game. It's just a desperate attempt to fit in yet another badly-conducted poll into your preconceived, biased perspective on this race.

    But hey, anything, even shoddy statistical work, to make Steve Novick look good. Am I right, Mark?

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    Eryn, you're doing great work on this campaign on behalf of the workers. Keep it up!

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    I have to agree with Jack here. The very recent (01/18/08) poll done by SurveyUSA had a somewhat sloppy margin of error at 4.3% - something in the range of 3% would be preferable and more inline with the tight tolerances of the Big Dogs in the polling biz. This Riley poll has an uber-sloppy margin of error at 7%.

    Sloppy margins of error aside, SurveyUSA's poll unequivocably showed Obama besting Clinton in their respective heats with each of the four Republicans. Granted, SUSA didn't pit Obama and Clinton directly against each other, but Riley's poll claims a sizable advantage for Clinton which simply isn't believable, particularly at 7% margins!

  • LT (unverified)
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    Having clicked on the link to the Riley poll, I have to respond with the results of an unscientific poll I have been running for months.

    Speaking to friends of mine who don't follow politics, I say this, "Please help me in an argument with my political friends. We have a US Senate campaign this year. Can you name anyone running?"

    More often than not, the answer is along the lines of "Gee, is this the year Gordon Smith runs for re-election?".

    Which is why I say those who have chosen a candidate need to get out there and campaign on the ground, not just on a blog. More people probably read (and commented on) the story of Merkley's car hitting ice and that he survived than know of all the Jeff/ Steve back and forth here on BO.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    When is Blue Oregon expected to endorse the Merkley?

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    Frankly, I think that LT's poll tells us a great deal more than this Riley poll. I mean think about this for a second... with a massive 7% margin of error one could add 7 to Goberman and subtract 7 from Novick and come up with Goberman out-polling Novick by a 9% to 5% margin. ROFL!!!

  • KeepOnTopic (unverified)
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    TJ, Lets keep this about supporting the work that UniteHere is doing. For once can you stay on topic and not make this another pointless thread about the minutia of the senate race? You have your own blog for that.

  • Ian (unverified)
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    Thank you Jeff, I know and everyone else should know that you put the average person before politics. Oregon will find out in the coming months that you are a champion for the people rather than big business.

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    Fellas, you shouldn't dabble in areas where you don't really know what you're saying. The idea that a larger MoE represents "sloppiness" is just bizarre, and reflects a misunderstanding of what the margin says. A larger MoE simply reflects a smaller sample size--and a larger confidence interval, between which you can be assured the effect is not random. There is nothing "sloppy" about a 7 point MoE; it simply means the range between two candidates is 14 as opposed to 9 (as it would be with a 4.5 MoE). It's false to say that Mapes calls it "shoddy;" what he does is echo the high undecided voter rate, and the smaller sample size. Instead of the ratio between them being Novick +12 to Merkley +6 (as it would with a so-called "non-sloppy" 4.5 MoE), the range in the Riley Poll is Novick +17 to Merkley + 9.

    And that right there is Merkley's problem: at VERY BEST, Merkley's not even up 10 points on a guy his debate negotiator says isn't a realistic candidate--and most people don't even have an opinion. That is not what a presumptive walkover candidate looks like.

    As for Kevin's analysis-- Again, to cast MoE as some kind of legitimacy litmus test, as opposed to a measure of precision, suggests misunderstanding of what MoE actually is. It's like saying that directions to a building "between 3rd and 5th Streets" are good directions, while "between 1st and 7th Streets" is totally useless and noninformative. Your scope is wider, is all. Adjust your conclusions appropriately.

    And he commits a couple of cardinal errors in comparing Riley to SUSA. First of all, SUSA is registered voters; Riley uses a much tighter likely voter screen. We're in the cusp area right now, between when the former is recommended and when the latter gives a better perception of where the race is.

    Secondly, he tries to compare a poll taken before results in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina, to one taken mostly after Michigan, mostly after Nevada, and mostly BEFORE South Carolina. Unlike the Riley poll in December which was "debunked" by folks like Mitch because of a 14-day polling window that nonetheless contained no notable Senate race events, happenings on the ground between SUSA and Riley in this case could certainly have an impact on the latter.

    Finally, it's absurd to try to shoehorn a comparison between general head to heads, and a primary test. For one thing, in the primary there are multiple Democratic candidates. In the general there's only one--plus there's a Republican. Edwards and Kucinich draw an unknown number of votes away from both Clinton and Obama, in unknown patterns. Edwards wasn't even a factor in SUSA's polling, as we know.

    And that's another thing: Kevin bitched to high heaven about how awful SUSA was to not ask about Edwards. Now that VERY SAME POLL is regarded as a useful measuring stick by Kevin? I see.

    "Keep on topic," I didn't bring up Riley polling; someone else did, and I corrected the record on Mitch's behalf, since he was trying to indict the results without any evidence as to why.

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    Oh, and if you actually GO to the SUSA survey, you'll see Kevin's wrong anyway--Obama does only marginally better than Hillary in Oregon against the main Republicans...and it's within the margin of error.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    "Thank you Jeff, I know and everyone else should know that you put the average person before politics. Oregon will find out in the coming months that you are a champion for the people rather than big business."

    I think we've all read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Ian.

  • Tim (unverified)
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    TALK IS CHEAP IT'S THE WAY ORGANIZE ANDUSE OUR LIVES EVERYDAY THAT TELL WHAT WE BELIEVE IN. CESAR CHAVEZ Kep up the good work UNITEHERE9.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    According to Willamette Week, the Hilton is only 1 of 3 unionized hotels in Oregon. All 3 are in downtown Portland and the Hilton is the largest. Apparently UNITE-HERE was formed by the fusion of old Textile workers unions and Hotel Employees unions in 2004. They were part of the new push to become more radical and miltant about organizing.

    The old union at the Hilton was poorly supported and few employees were active. The new international leaderhip booted the local 9 president and brought in a local president from San Francisco. This new transplant is vowing to shake things up or create labor turmoil for the Hotel. Interestingly enough, UNITE-HERE union dues are actually paying for full time boycott coordinators to encourage business to stay away from the hotel. Thus taking potential livlihood out of the hands of UNITE-HERE members. Ask the Teamsters how well that strategem worked with Overnite Transportation.

    Apparently some of the Progressive Events moved, but didn't go to either of the other two unionized hotels and ended up in non-union establishments. So much for solidarity.

  • Barbara Ann Wright (unverified)
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    management must be made to understand that none and I repeat none of their profits are possible without unitehire 9 employees. If it means that instead of making a million dollars profit they make 500,000 then so be it. UniteHire 9 needs to expand their influence in the Restaurant industry in Oregon to include all restaurants in the State not just a select few in the Portland metro area. Pendleton use to be a union town but when the Culinary union went tits up we are no longer union. When the union went under restaurant owners took advantage of workers horribly here in Pendleton. We must get the union back.

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    When is Blue Oregon expected to endorse the Merkley?

    BlueOregon doesn't do endorsements, though our individual contributors are welcome to do so.

    Among our editors: I'm working with Merkley, Alworth is supporting him, and Burr is supporting Novick. Most of our contributors haven't taken a position either way.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    A tacit endorsement, got it.

  • tim (unverified)
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    You maybe should get your facts stright. The parties that chose not to go to the Union hotels when they pulled out of the Hilton is because the union hotels weren't big enough to handle the size of there group. If the members were worried about there lively hood they wouldn't of voted 97% to boycott and would not still willing to go on with it.

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    No, BCM, there's nothing tacit about it. My "endorsement" of Jeff Merkley (like that matters) is quite explicit. Jeff Alworth's as well. Same for Charlie Burr's endorsement of Steve Novick.

    Presumably, contributor Jon Isaacs (who is Merkley's campaign manager) has "endorsed" Merkley. Contributor Leslie Carlson (who is a Novick public relations staffer) has presumably "endorsed" Novick.

    Most of our contributors joined us long before either Merkley or Novick had entered the race. They're welcome to support, or oppose, anyone they like.

    But BlueOregon is just a bunch of pixels on a screen, bytes on a server. "It" can't endorse anyone. As we wrote on the very first day:

    We expect our contributors to individually motivate our readers to action - but BlueOregon itself won't collectively endorse candidates, stage protests, or even go out for donuts.

    I know that makes us different than other blogs, but hey, we seem to be doing something right.

    If you don't like it here, why do you hang out here? I don't get the motivation to stand around and piss in the pool.

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    Kurt,

    UNITE-HERE was a merger of two unions with those names, UNITE (Union of Needle, Industrial and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees) in 2004. UNITE was the result of an earlier merger in 1996 between ACTWU (Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union) and the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union -- one of the great historical clothing workers' unions, famous for organizing in response to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire among other things). ACTWU in turn was the product of a still earlier merger, hence "Amalgamated." So it was only "several textile unions" if we measure over a period of decades, but only one in 2004.

    The current UNITE-HERE VP who heads the HERE side (former pres. of HERE before the merger) is a guy named John Wilhelm, who under the tutelage of an older organizer named Vincent Sirabella in New Haven and at Yale University developed a style of organizing that is not only aggressive, but built on intense rank & file involvement & direction, & centering on a demand for respect as the bedrock of all other negotiations. The HERE locals in New Haven were hard-fighting, inspiring and successful when I was there in the 1980s.

    You come close to portraying an outside agitator theory of what is happening at the Hilton. What Willamette Week actually reports is that UNITE-HERE national leadership replaced a previous Local 9 "representative," almost certainly a hired staffer (local presidents typically being elected from membership), with a number of new organizers. The president of SF Local 2 (which has fought some hard fights of its own in recent years) has not become the president of Local 9, but is "overseeing negotiations" according to Willamette Week.

    The way Eryn writes about it and several other commenters describe it, and Willamette Week, it sounds very similar to what I saw in New Haven. Creating this kind of union, based on fundamental ideas of demanding respect and of workers controlling their own choices of how to proceed, just can't be done simply by someone parachuting in from outside. Workers just don't develop the necessary internal solidarity that way.

    What Willamette Week describes is a longer term process, in which organizers work with workers who develop their own leadership from inside. WW mentions the local creating 10 union steward positions for about 275 members, call it 1 to 30. Those stewards know everyone they represent, who in return know the stewards and have direct access to them. These are rank & file leadership positions that create a structure of accountability and ownership within a local.

    Eryn Stack, according to WW, is coordinating the boycott apparently as paid staff (maybe she will correct if this is wrong). Again, this is development of internal leadership from within the local rank & file, in this case bringing a rank & file leader onto staff. Again, this is familiar as a way UNITE-HERE works. The people in similar positions who I knew in New Haven were just amazing as organizers & motivators, because they were grounded in the union membership & the community.

    And this is the kind of thing that spreads. In New Haven, it moved from Local 217 (hotels & restaurants around town) who helped energize and develop strong internal leadership, solidarity & democracy in Local 35 (Yale blue collar workers) who in turn after about a decade put up some big resources to help the Yale clerical and technical workers form Local 34, and then going out in solidarity with Local 34 when the university admin forced a 10 week strike by bad-faith bargaining. It would not surprise me at all to see some sort of similar spill-over effect from what is going on in Local 9.

    Good for Jeff for supporting Local 9 despite pressures, & good for Local 9 for making it important and significant and worthwhile for him to do so. Ultimately it's their solidarity that creates the wider solidarity.

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    Meant to put the Willamette Week article link in above, sorry, here it is now.

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    >Vincent Sirabella

    Oh, man, you are giving me flashbacks. He fronted the union (I want to say Local 35) that represented the cafeteria and janitorial workers at Yale when I was there in the mid-late 70s. They went out on a lengthy strike that tied the University in knots for months.

    I still have one of the t-shirts.

  • Eryn Slack (unverified)
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    Chris,

    I couldn't have said it better. You were correct on all points. I'm proud to be involved with something as incredible as Unite Here.

    And I think I can speak for all the other rank-in-file leaders/committee: Shirley, Bruce, Allen, Chris, Teresa, Joseph, Brandon, John, Megan, Samantha, David, Roberto, Ana, Tam, Joanne, Darla and James.

    And our rock solid membership! You are shaking up Portland!!!!

    In solidarity,

    Eryn Slack Ex-waitress, current staff

  • Tim (unverified)
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    Thanks Chris for leting people know how are UNITEHERE was brought together. For peoples information we didn't boot Jeff out he resigned. Don't assume you know everything from one side of the story. Thanks Eyn for all the hard work your doing and all the workers at the Hilton for frighting for your rights and respect.

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    Stephanie, Yep, it was & is Local 35. As part of a grad student union support network in 1988 I wrote the historical section on Local 35 for a "white paper" we issued on why Yale had forced strikes in every contract negotiation beginning with 1968 up to 1988. This was part of an ultimately successful campaign by Locals 34 & 35 to organize student and community support ahead of a strike to force Yale admin to settle a decent contract without a strike. The pattern in the 10 week strike in 1984 was that for about the first 4 or 5 weeks most undergrads were / wanted to be neutral, but that after that it became increasingly apparent that it was the Admin that was preventing a settlement. In 1988 the seniors had been first-years in 1984 and they really didn't want to have their senior year disrupted too, and the unions did a brilliant job of creating a student support network and using it to educate students about the issues.

    This kind of tactical creativity and connecting workplace struggles outward into the wider community to press for fair bargaining again seems to be visible in how Local 9 is doing things at the Portland Hilton.

    Anyway, in the course of researching my piece of the "white paper" I learned a lot about the origins of Local 35, how it came to join HERE, about Vincent Sirabella & John Wilhelm, & about Yale's long history (a stupidly self-destructive one) of hiring union-busting law firms to advise them on labor-management relations, forcing strikes, and losing them on balance.

    Was David Montgomery at Yale yet when you were there?

    Do you ever go up Hawthorne St in SE Portland? There's a clothing store there called Local 34 that I've always wondered about, although it is just occurring to me that it probably is on the corner of Hawthorne & SE 34th. Light dawns on Marblehead. Oh well.

    <h2>cheers</h2>
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