Purnell Packer, Hotel Worker — UNITE HERE Local 7 Member

Purnell Packer, Hotel Worker — UNITE HERE Local 7 Member

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, School Bus Driver — TWU Local 252

Manny Vargas, School Bus Driver — TWU Local 252

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.

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