Anatomy of a Strike

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September 15, 2011 in Labor & Economy

I thought for sure we were going to have to call a locksmith to get Rene released from the Porta-Potty.  We didn’t hear his calls for help at first because we were screaming at the hotel at two in the morning. It was the second night of our union’s weeklong strike against the Hyatt Andaz Hotel on the Sunset Strip. Luckily, Rene just seems to have problems opening doors. He escaped and grabbed his picket sign, which had the Hyatt corporate logo with a round frown-face printed over it.

The cops told us we couldn’t sing up Kings Road toward the back of the Andaz because it was waking up neighbors in the Hollywood Hills, and not just hotel guests. I only saw hotel guests complain. There is nothing like the sound of a big rig horn rattling the windows in the wee hours of the morning on a building as large as the Hyatt Andaz.

One annoyed hotel guest stood in the windows facing Sunset Boulevard and extended both middle fingers down to us for approximately five straight minutes.  He had a psycho grin from the lack of sleep that reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  Another man stumbled down visibly upset, no shirt on, in sweat pants and the worst case of bed hair I have ever seen on a man so bald. He pleaded with us to stop. We pleaded with him to leave the hotel and to call corporate to settle our contract.

One of  the union reps informed me that a sister union of UNITE HERE Local 11 is supporting us. They are refusing to deliver food to the hotel.  Since I am a server she asked me how long I thought they could go without food, and I suddenly got a great idea for a horror movie.

I had decided to accept the 1 a.m. picket shift because I thought the darkness would make me anonymous. We would be like a rogue band of mutineers causing chaos in the night. This was incredibly dumb thinking. The managers are working around the clock because of the sheer lack of employees. They know I’m here. They wave at me.

Picketing is not easy. It’s like jumping into a cold swimming pool and forcing yourself to just get it over with. Every fiber of your being is telling you to get out — your mind, your body but especially your pride.  And then finally the water gets warm.

One of my coworkers and I were discussing what it means to have courage.  To me it means facing the unknown, it means standing for something once in a while, no matter who will stand with you. I keep telling myself that’s why I’m out here.

Friday and Saturday morning we dealt with a lot of drunks, homeless people, cops and a man who was dressed as Jesus Christ. His real name is Kevin and he does his act at the Comedy Store next door. He carried a protest sign, and walked in a circle with us for a few minutes before he got bored, and walked off into the night, talking to someone on his cell phone, which he retrieved from somewhere under his white tunic.

I am a different person since this started five days ago.  The dark bags under my eyes look like they are packing for a vacation. The songs and chants have gotten so old and repetitive that I can say them backwards in Spanish, and I don’t speak that language. The newly hired security guards even know the chants now and sing along. I see them moving their lips to each syllable, bobbing their heads uncontrollably to the beat of the drum.

I’ve decided I never want to walk in a circle again. I’m guessing my circles outnumber the amount of guests I have waited on for the Hyatt Corporation.  The only novelty I see in it is that we are all experiencing the boredom and the excitement together, that we are coming together to make life a little different, a little better.

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Jim Lair Beard
Jim Lair Beard is a writer who worked as a server at the Hyatt Andaz for two years.
Read more articles by Jim Lair Beard

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  • Igor

    Great post. Big ups to you for having the courage to walk the line!

  • John-Edward Guevarra

    Thank you for your courage and your thoughts.

  • John-Edward Guevarra

    Thank you for your courage and your thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! My favorite part was singing our “My Union Favorite Things” :)

  • Carolina

    You’ve captured the experience of marching a picket line so well. Although, I think the most encouraging part as a picketer is the confrontation with those hotel guests, tourists and neighbors who cross our line with disgusting smirks on their faces.

  • Carolina

    You’ve captured the experience of marching a picket line so well. Although, I think the most encouraging part as a picketer is the confrontation with those hotel guests, tourists and neighbors who cross our line with disgusting smirks on their faces.

  • Royaldeepee

    this strike was one of the dumbest things i’ve experienced in my whole life, next to the ignoramuses that trued to encourage me to strike by comparing the spoiled employees whining complaints to that of the black and latinos during the 1960′s. 40 million people are unemployed in this country and you idiots want to strike over what exactly? I lost so much respect ( not that i had a lot to begin with) for my co-workers i guess that african proverb is right a mind is a terrible thing to waste, i’m glad you fools went on strike because i got mine…

  • Alexander Supertramp

    Perhaps you need to speak with Cathy Youngblood, a housekeeper at the Andaz, a holder of two college degrees and someone who marched with Dr. King. Perhaps you should speak with her of why she thinks it is a civil rights issue. Perhaps you should’ve been at negotiations to listen to black ministers and pastors explain why this is a civil rights issue. Perhaps you need to do a little more homework to see what this strike was actually about rather than accept the status quo. You quote 40 million people being unemployed and I won’t dispute that but Hyatt is now using the practice of eliminating jobs by classifying three and four titles into one person. Think about how much job loss that is to the economy! And yet we know they built ten more properties last year. We know they made 55 million in profit. So, who really is doing more harm to workers? A bunch of ragtag strikers who want to be paid what they’re worth when they’re working three and four extra jobs? or a corporation who refuses to hire more people or pay out more to the workers they are taking advantage of. I believe if you had of done proper research you would’ve been outside with us rather than swallowing Hyatt’s false propaganda.

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