September 28, 2006 more than 2,000 people marched down Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport, and more than 300 people, including two LA City Council members and other elected officials, clergy, union leaders and students, were arrested as part of a well-orchestrated civil disobedience sit-in--to protest the mistreatment of low-wage hotel workers by thirteen hotels in the airport area.
The grassroots campaign culminated four months later, on January 31, when the LA City Council voted to extend the city's living-wage law to the 3,500 employees at the LAX hotels. Their pay ed bump up to $10.64 an hour on July 1, and they would get ten days of paid vacation, a significant improvement for most of the workers, primarily immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
The City Council initially approved the living-wage extension in November, over the objections of the business community and a Los Angeles Times editorial. But then the LA Chamber of Commerce and the hotel industry collected enough signatures to put the measure on the May ballot, pledging to raise more than $5 million for a media campaign to persuade voters to rescind the law. The hotel workers' union (UNITE HERE), the LA County Federation of Labor and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)--the key backers of the law--were prepared to defend the law with a grassroots campaign of their own, which they expected would cost $1.5 million.
The strong City Council support for the law was due in large part to what LAANE organizer Vivian Rothstein called the members' "personal engagement" with the plight of the hotel workers. Council members Ed Reyes and Jose Huizar, who were arrested in the September civil disobedience, "put their bodies on the line," Rothstein said.
In addition, at the request of UNITE HERE, more than half of the fifteen City Council members visited hotel workers at their jobs and homes. Many were horrified by the workers' living and working conditions but also moved by their resolve to win improvements from their employers. Councilmember Janice Hahn, the living-wage law's chief sponsor, experienced an altercation with a hotel security guard when she insisted on talking with a hotel manager, an incident that strengthened her commitment to the workers' cause.
"Latinos Need Barack Obama"
- We support comprehensive immigration reform and we believe President Obama is on the right track. He favors an immigration policy that rewards hard work and responsibility and lifts the shadow of deportation from young people who were brought here as children, through no fault of their own, and grew up as Americans. And given congressional inaction, the President and the DHS implemented a stop-gap measure that temporarily lifts the shadow of deportation from DREAMers.
- The economic recovery is not yet complete, but we recognize President Obama's work to help our communities. From the Latina back in school thanks to expanded Pell Grants to the family that can now afford health care for their child with a preexisting condition, all Latinos need a leader that will stand by his word and respect their pursuit of the American Dream.
- Sadly when Mitt Romney speaks to Latinos today he will not answer our Grito de Verdad y Liderazgo because he stands on the wrong side of every Latino voter priority. Latinos know that what we need is a President who will lead our community with respect and value our contributions and that the contrast between Romney's campaign rhetoric and four years of action from this administration is clear: the man we need to lead us is Barack Obama.
- Congresswoman Linda Sanchez
- Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo
- LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina
- LA City Councilman Ed Reyes
- California State Senator Edward Hernandez
- California State Senator Alex Padilla
- California Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes
- California Assemblyman John Perez
- California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo
- California Assemblyman Kevin De Leon
- LA City Councilman Eric Garcetti
- LA City Councilman Jose Huizar
- LA City Councilman Tony Cardenas