Day of Solidarity: Portland, Seattle & San Francisco

Seattle Solidarity Network action, Hotel Max in Seattle, 29 April 2011

On 29 April 2011 pickets took place in 3 West Coast cities in solidarity with workers at San Francisco's Hotel Frank.

The hotel was auctioned off in a foreclosure sale in May, 2010 by Wells Fargo Bank, who then sold the hotel to a financial speculator, who hired a company called Provenance to manage the hotel. Provenance proceeded to fire 3 workers, stop paying for health care, and increase hours and workload.

Preface:This is one of the most inspiring actions I've seen in some time. And credit for helping coordinate this goes to FN Brill, who while on a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area suggested to Marc Norton that he get in touch with the Seattle Solidarity Network, as well as hooking Marc up with the Portland branch of the I.W.W.

Hopefully these acts of solidarity actions will link up struggles across national borders and foment truly internationalist class-based actions.

And a disclaimer: HERE Local 2 workers at Hotel Frank are my friends and comrades and some have walked the picket line when I have been on strike. That said, I don't share their faith in trade unions as a means to further class struggle, nor do I think the goal should be contracts and legalistic forms of fighting the boss. Yet by reputation the caucus of workers at the Hotel Frank are thorns in the side of the Local 2 bureaucracy and have a reputation across San Francisco as the most militant rank-and-file in the sector.

--Hieronymous

here's the article:

_____________________________________________________________________________

Not the Usual Suspects...

(First published in Beyond Chron, May 5, 2011)

By Marc Norton

A non-traditional alliance of workers in Portland and Seattle organized a Day of Solidarity with Hotel Frank Workers last Friday, April 29. The Portland Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Seattle Solidarity Network, and Hotel Frank workers were all on the streets picketing Provenance hotels. Provenance is the hotel management company that threw the UNITE HERE Local 2 contract at Hotel Frank in the trash almost a year ago.

In Portland, the IWW picketed Hotel Lucia. Provenance has its headquarters in Portland, as well as two upper-crust boutique hotels, Hotel Lucia and Hotel deLuxe. The IWW has a long history as a militant and radical labor union, often credited with popularizing the slogan and philosophy that “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” That was certainly the spirit in evidence when they set up their picket line last Friday. Below is a short video and a couple photographs of the action:

Portland IWW 29 April 2011 wrote:

Portland IWW at Hotel Lucia 29 April 2011Portland IWW at Hotel Lucia 29 April 201

In Seattle, the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol) picketed Hotel Max, another high-end Provenance boutique hotel. TeaSol, founded in 2008, is a much younger organization than the IWW, but has already established a reputation for organizing successful campaigns for workers and tenants’ rights. They can mobilize an impressive number of people, and did just that on Friday.

And in San Francisco, Hotel Frank workers held our regular Friday afternoon picket. Hotel Frank workers declared a boycott of the hotel last September. Since then we have staged an escalating series of actions aimed at restoring our Union contract, including active picket lines and unannounced delegations to management.

Hotel Frank workers and community solidarity picket 29 April 2011

Last Saturday, the day after the tri-city action, we set up a loud picket line at Hotel Frank at 7 AM on Saturday morning, rousing the guests out of their beds a bit earlier than they were expecting, prompting a flood of complaints by guests to the beleaguered managers. Union-busting companies and guests who cross picket lines reap what they sow.

We are the room cleaners, front desk hosts, bellmen, housemen, laundry and maintenance workers who have worked at Hotel Frank for 10, 20 even 30 years. Most of us have worked at the hotel since it was the Maxwell Hotel, and before that the Raphael Hotel. Hotel Frank is a small hotel just off Union Square. We have had a Union contract for nearly 40 years.

But in May, 2010, Wells Fargo bank bought the hotel in a foreclosure sale. The bank brought in a new management company, Provenance, and declared our contract null and void. Since then, it has been one travesty after another.

The room cleaners are cleaning many more rooms, often skipping their breaks out of necessity, and suffering debilitating injuries to boot. Everybody works an extra half-hour per day for free. Staffing has been cut to the bone. There has been no agreement about medical coverage or pensions. And the hotel has fired Union activists, including myself, and disciplined workers on frivolous and discriminatory charges. We are waiting for a decision by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge on a trial instigated by the NLRB on numerous violations of federal labor law by the hotel.

All the San Francisco hotel contracts expired at the end of 2009. Since then, Local 2 has been waging a series of battles against the big hotel bosses. Recently the Union won a series of contracts, including the Hilton, the Westin St. Francis, the Palace, the St. Regis, the W and the Fairmont.

But the situation at Hotel Frank is unique. Workers at other hotels where there has not yet been a settlement are working under the terms of their expired contracts, preserving some semblance of work rules, rights and benefits, although without any raises since 2009. At Hotel Frank, there is no contract, no rules and no grievance procedure. Nevertheless, Hotel Frank workers battle on. Local 2 is a Union that doesn’t quit. We know we will win in the end. In the meantime, however, the road is hard.

Provenance, the new management company, is based in the Northwest, which is why the Portland IWW and the Seattle Solidarity Network got into the act. In addition to Provenance’s two hotels in Portland and the one in Seattle, they also run Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, and Hotel Preston in Nashville, Tennessee.

Provenance is in turn owned by Aspen Capital. Both companies are based in Portland. The CEO of both Provenance and Aspen Capital is Gordon Sondland. Sondland sits on the Oregon Governors Economic Advisory Board and the Governor’s Office of Film and Television, chairing the Portland Art Museum, and serving on several corporate boards.

Last December, Wells Fargo sold the hotel to another financial speculator, AEW Capital Management, based in Boston, Massachusetts. AEW kept Provenance on as the management company, which has continued their anti-worker campaign unabated.

Hotel Frank workers have dug in, have stayed strong, and remain very solid and united. “This is a small group of workers facing a big bully,” said Maria Guillen of Jobs with Justice.

Lately the hotel calls the police every time we set up our picket line, but so far the only action the police have taken is to arrest an out-of-control guest who took a swing at me.

The solidarity of workers in Portland and Seattle is, of course, music to our ears. And the support we have received from other workers and community folks on our picket lines keeps us going day-by-day.

Feel free to join us. It’s a true story – An Injury to One is An Injury to All.

YOSHI’S UPDATE: Those who have been following this story know that Yoshi’s, a prominent San Francisco jazz club, has been sending its out-of-town musicians to cross our picket line and stay at Hotel Frank. Most of the musicians we talk to are not happy about this, yet Yoshi’s refuses to make a commitment to do the right thing. Recently, Sweet Honey In The Rock decided not to stay at Hotel Frank. Unfortunately, Leon Redbone did stay at the hotel. We are waiting to see what the Manhattan Transfer does this week. Next week Roy Rogers (the blues guitarist, not the cowboy) is coming to town, and he has told us he won’t be crossing any picket lines. Yoshi’s, are you listening?

http://www.hotelfranksf.info/

(text taken, with only slight modification, from indybay.org)

Posted By

Hieronymous
May 9 2011 04:06

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Comments

Juan Conatz
May 9 2011 05:12

I checked the East Bay Solidarity Network's site and didn't see any of that language used. Where are you getting that info from?

Also, a solidarity network is usually not an explicitly anarchist formation, although it much of the language used is mostly going to appeal to anarchists. By its very nature, it will have a variety of those on the left, Leninists and liberals included.

Hieronymous
May 9 2011 08:41

[Non sequitur reference removed]

Hieronymous
May 9 2011 08:39
Juan Conatz wrote:
Also, a solidarity network is usually not an explicitly anarchist formation, although it much of the language used is mostly going to appeal to anarchists. By its very nature, it will have a variety of those on the left, Leninists and liberals included.

But if it's true to the word "solidarity," it sure as hell better be a class-based formation. Beyond that, I'm not too beholden to the labels. Mostly they're a hindrance.

redsdisease
May 9 2011 07:23

I feel like the critique of the East Bay Solnet is overlyharsh and a total non sequitur. I agree that the blog post that Hieronymous linked to was gag inducing, but it's a single blog post of a single member of the group. It doesn't seem to be their official line, do you have evidence that it is? Regardless, there are much better ways (and certainly better places) to approach this than as an irrelevant aside in the introduction of an article.

That said, this really is a terrific display of cross-city solidarity. I hope that we can see this becoming more and more commonplace in the near future. Good work to all involved.

888
May 9 2011 18:04

Weird, I didn't know about the existence of East Bay Sol. Just heard about SF Sol a few days ago. Interesting...

888
May 9 2011 20:34

If you want pictures of teh Seattle action for this article I should be able to get you some.

Hieronymous
May 10 2011 06:14

Hey 888, yeah please post them here. Thanks.

888
May 11 2011 02:08