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Labor & Economy

Words with Friends: A Strike’s Personal Fallout




I’ll call him Alex. We work together at the RH restaurant at the Hyatt Andaz hotel on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. We are uneasy around each other now, since the strike. He chose one side. I chose another.

For the better part of a week in September, I watched him from outside the window. I held my Unite Here picket sign and wailed on the drum as he poured drinks for distraught customers.  My blood boiled when I found out he crossed the picket line, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy that I was at least partially responsible for his lack of business in the restaurant. We made uncomfortable eye contact through the window far too many times.

Going on a strike and living its aftermath are like going through a divorce, where the children are told to pick a side. Some of us journey all the way through with one parent, and some of us bounce between them. Alex was indecisive, but ultimately chose the one who he thought would best look out for his own interests — the Hyatt Corporation.  I chose Local 11.

We have friendly communication but I consider it to be intangible. It’s an ongoing Words with Friends game where we never discuss who wins or loses. I don’t know why we keep playing. Maybe it’s so we can disagree but still get along. After all we still work together just fine and do our jobs professionally. He’s recently invited me to play Chess with Friends – perhaps a metaphor for the strategic and complex negotiations between my union and the Hyatt. After two years we are still without a contract.

In a strange way, Alex feels like the family that I go home to at Thanksgiving, where everybody knows that we’re not supposed to talk about politics. Yes, we still pass the mashed potatoes and gravy but we don’t mention words like Iraq or Solyndra. We finish up dinner and we turn right to the board games.

I’ve decided I’m going to ask Alex out for a beer tonight after work. It’s time we reinstated our past relationship where we talk about sports and agree on the hell of L.A.’s traffic. If the conversation goes south, we’ve always got Words with Friends.

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