Hotel workers walk picket lines in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Members of one Hilton-operated property walked off the job early Monday morning intending to stay off the job until Friday morning with an eye on how much money they could lose during their strike. For some of the employees, that could range from $300 to $500.

The 250 employees say they've grown inpatient as negotiations for a new four-year contract seem to be going nowhere. "They don't want to give us no raise. They don't want to help us with health care. I've been here 16 years, so I've given a lot to this hotel. All we want is respect," housekeeper Yolanda Gamez said.

The Doubletree went union in 2007 and its previous contract expired 11 months ago. "I have a disabled husband. He's a diabetic. I need to work but I also need to be treated fairly, and with negotiations with the Hilton and our union for 11 months, nothing," front office employee Ruth Horlick said.

The "Unite Here" union points out that hotel workers 55 miles away in San Francisco are frequently paid double what workers with identical jobs earn in San Jose. "When we compare a room attendant in the South Bay making around $12 an hour to a $25, $26 an hour room attendant in San Francisco, the gap is so huge," union representative Enrique Fernandez said. "And, it's not about us thinking that tomorrow we're going to make $26 an hour."

The Doubletree's manager issued a statement saying, "We are extremely disappointed with the union's current work stoppage and hope that they will return to the bargaining table to negotiate a reasonable agreement. A strike is not the right direction."

"It's hard to imagine a whole third of people who live here making less than a living wage and that number growing every year because then, who buys the computers? Who buys the cars? Where's the middle class?" asked South Bay Labor Council Executive Director Cindy Chavez.

As of Monday, everything appeared to be somewhat amicable between the strikers and the hotel, but come Friday when the strikers try to go back to work, there is always the possiblity of a management lockout. That's a risk that strikers take when they walk out on the job.

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