By Bill Leumer
In September 2004, the San Francisco Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, Local 2 (UNITE HERE), went on strike against four out of the fourteen major hotels in the city. The union was in the process of negotiating a new contract with the hotel owners along the lines done in the past: a single contract would cover all fourteen hotels. In addition to striking only four hotels, the union announced the strike would have a limited duration of no more than two weeks. The intent was to deter the employers from pursuing demands for concessions that had been raised in contract negotiations.
After two weeks of watching scabs pass through their picket lines like water going through a sieve so that the hotels continued to conduct business, the union officials directed the strikers back to work.
The hotel owners were fully aware that their partners, the union officers, were of the opinion that strikes could not be won, which gave the owners a tremendous advantage. But in addition to this, representatives of the hotel owners and Local 2 officials were joint members in the San Francisco Hotel Partnership, a scheme to increase worker efficiency and lessen conflicts between labor and management. These factors conspired to weaken the union. Taking advantage of the situation, the owners took the opportunity to respond to the union’s back-to-work order by locking out all Local 2 workers at all fourteen Hotels in the city. This action was consciously designed to further demoralize the over 4,000 union members working at the hotels and allow management to succeed in imposing their concessionary demands on the union.
The union officials’ response to the employers massive lockout, a clear act of employer aggression, was typical of those who think that when workers are attacked by such powerful forces, they cannot win. They believed there was only one recourse: to retreat, sit back and hope that Democratic Party politicians would come to their rescue before more was lost. This official union policy is what class struggle fighters call a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The problem for the union officials was that the members were incensed by the hotel owners lockout and wanted to wage a fight so as not to lose precious hard won gains from their contract. The members knew that if they did not put up a fight, all would be lost. In response to member pressure, the union officials set up picket lines at all the hotels where the lockout was imposed. Unfortunately, these picket lines were designed to be crossed by scabs and, predictably, they were repeatedly crossed day after day. The fact that the members were prepared to fight then inspired us to compose the following leaflet that addressed the question that was on everyone’s mind: How to win?
HOW TO WIN!
This struggle cannot be won if scabs are allowed to cross the picket line every day of the week. Hotel owners will have little interest in making concessions as long as their profits keep pouring in.
These jobs are Local 2 jobs. When people work, we work not only for ourselves, but for our children, for our spouses, and for our partners. We work in order that we and our loved ones can survive. We work so that our children have the basic, inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is for this reason that the right to work for reasonable compensation is a basic human right.
No one has the right to scab. Scabs are not only traitors to themselves but traitors to humanity. It is our duty to exercise our constitutional right of assembly and put a stop to their treachery.
We believe that a call should be put out to every labor union in the city to help mobilize thousands of supporters so that these picket lines are large enough to stop the scabs from crossing them. In this way the labor movement can assure that the hotels are shut down. This is the only way to force the owners to concede to the just demands of Local 2 and its membership. This step will send a signal to people throughout the city that a real fight is being waged and inspire them to join in. Mass picket lines could initially be organized on weekends and then, using that momentum, extend into the week days. An educational committee should be organized and mandated to explain to all scabs that they are not only stealing our jobs, but the food off our table and the clothes off our back. They are committing crimes against humanity.
The outcome of this struggle will impact all working people. With solidarity we can win!
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!