When I started in the hotel industry I was in my twenties and I worked for nonunion hotels. My first job wasn’t the best, I worked there two or three years and eventually they let me go saying it was because of cutbacks. I had never been fired before, I was in shock.
A few months later, in ’97, I was hired at my current hotel which was also nonunion then. Things started off good there but went downhill. I noticed that when people were getting fired they weren’t being replaced and the hotel starting downsizing and cutting departments. I was in convention services back then and we were overworked. The managers kept telling us they would hire new people but never did. When I started in ’97 there were around 17 employees in convention services, and when we decided to fight for a union in 2010 that was down to
about 5. Many of us in convention and housekeeping were forced to do overtime because it was too much work and you had to have the work finished even if it was past your time. The hotel even brought in temporary agencies for housekeeping so workers were doing the same work for less pay.
When my co-worker first approached me about joining the union, I knew that most decent jobs had a union, so I decided to join the committee. He was surprised that I didn’t hesitate, but I’d seen good union jobs – my dad was a postal worker – so I wanted that. The hotel jobs here in Baltimore were supposed to be the new “good jobs” after manufacturing left, but I saw that they had a ways-to-go. We fought for the union and won and now my coworkers and I feel respected on the job. I can do my work better without feeling like a manager is going to come and harass me. I don’t have to keep looking over my shoulder because I can’t be fired arbitrarily like I was when I first started at a non-union place in my twenties. I have a fighting chance, and a real say-so in my job conditions. The hotel has hired more people
because of the union so my coworkers aren’t overworked. We also get regular raises and don’t have to worry about favoritism in who gets what raise this year. I have a family and the most important thing for me is that I have a say in my scheduling. Thanks to the union I can plan my work around the rest of my life and be there for my family.
For anyone who is traveling and attending conferences, come stay at a union hotel. It makes a real difference in my life and the lives of thousands of other workers. Let’s support good jobs in hospitality.
Manny Vargas, TWU Local 252, school bus driver in Suffolk County, NY
After I completed my duties in the Armed Forces, U.S. Navy, I immediately joined the nation’s workforce. I believe that among the most important responsibility in our lives is work, for ourselves and for society at large.
Over the years I have performed public safety duties. In my jobs at Pan America Airlines and American Airlines, I worked as an aircraft maintenance technician, with responsibility for passenger and airline employee safety.
As a current member of TWU Local 252, I am responsible for the safety of school children on the school bus that I drive. My work requires that I know and observe many state and federal laws and regulations. I am employed by Suffolk Transportation System and enjoy many benefits as a result of my union membership. My work is deeply satisfying as it rejuvenates me daily to deal with children from diverse backgrounds.
Last updated: September 1, 2017
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On August 21, 2017, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Shuler issued a letter approving a request by Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) President Baldemar Velasquez to add Reynolds American Inc.’s Vuse e-cigarette to the national Boycott list.
See the letter.
Shuler approves boycott of Vuse e-cigarette (21 downloads)
Labor Day falls on September 4, 2017, this year, and is also the day in history when the United States got its nickname Uncle Sam.
“Uncle Sam” is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-‐1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
Labor Day made its mark in U.S. history around the same time 70 years later, evolving, much like Uncle Sam, into a national symbol.
While, Uncle Sam is the personification of the U.S. and is generally regarded as a patriotic symbol, Labor Day symbolizes the power of the U.S. worker and the hard work undertaken to achieve the eight-‐hour day, a 40-‐hour work week, a fair wage, and a path to the middle class.
Both are a tribute to our nation in their own way and while Uncle Sam is a product directly of war, there were countless battles fought to achieve Labor Day.
We can’t forget those hard fought battles. We must honor the promise of a better future long sought by our founding union brothers and sisters. This Labor Day, we must resolve to look for the Union Label, to seek providers of union services in hotels and restaurants and post offices.
And we must take action, like they did, to fight back against the employers who would destroy our unions, who choose to move our jobs overseas. We must honor boycotts and picket lines and we need to help our brothers and sisters who are looking to organize a union in their workplace.
Just as important, we have to call for policies at every level of government that do the same. Our government should buy American products and services the same way foreign nations patronize theirs. Our government should fight for the rights of workers seeking a collective voice in their workplace.
We must remind everyone that we strengthened the United States and we built its middle class.
We face a challenge and an opportunity this year to support both union-‐made goods
and services and expand the ideals of unionism to all Americans. This Labor Day buy union and shop union.
From Labor Day, Monday, September 4, through Sunday September 10, 2017 American labor will observe Union Label Week—the time traditionally set aside for union families and all consumers to make a special effort to support good jobs by looking for union-‐made goods and union-produced services when they shop.
Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.
-‐-‐ Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor