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Labor & Economy

Anatomy of a Strike




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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