The organizing director of the hospitality workers union Unite Here labors to improve job conditions for hotel employees
Photograph by Antonio Mendoza
Why she does it: Latina housekeepers are the engine of the hotel industry, but people don’t see how difficult their job is and how many health and safety problems there are. These women clean 15 rooms in a shift, and in many hotels they get down on their hands and knees to do it. No matter how hard it is to organize them or how scary it can be to push them to take risks, these women give me the courage to stay committed.
Her secret to success: I educate people about their rights. We’re fortunate to have the right to organize, to demand a ten-minute break and a 30-minute meal break, and to stand up against companies that violate the law. I tell people, “Even if you don’t speak up, your job is at risk. If you do speak up, you risk your job but with people backing you up.”
Her proudest moment: My first assignment was organizing a hotel in Santa Monica. I saw a group of workers win their first union contract, and they went from earning $6.75 an hour to $8 or $9 an hour. I heard stories like, “I can take my kids to McDonald’s now. I can buy more school supplies.” It changed their lives.
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