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Workers picket for fair wages at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

ELSA CAVAZOS-Index Tribune

Nov 13, 2023

Around 250 workers and community members picketed for fair wages at the Sonoma Mission Inn Friday night.

Sofia Garcia, a housekeeper at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, looked over a crowd of about 250 hotel workers and community members who were picketing for fair wages Friday evening.

Garcia and the others gathered in front of the sprawling hotel along Highway 12 for the largest as part of their yearlong unionization campaign to receive equal pay across Bay Area Fairmont locations. workers at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn took their.

“I don't have children, but I don't want to know how hard it is to have children and have this salary,” Garcia said in Spanish. “Our work is very unfair that they give us a very short time to achieve what they ask of us.”

The Sonoma Index Tribune reached out to a representative of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, but they did not respond in time for the publication of this article.

Housekeepers like Garcia make $21 per hour on weekdays compared with unionized counterparts who make $29.10 per hour at other San Francisco Fairmont locations, according to Unite Local 2.

Garcia and others have attempted to organize a union over the past year at Sonoma Mission Inn with Unite Local 2, a Bay Area hospitality workers union that represents 15,000 hotel workers across the Bay Area, including other Fairmont locations.

Sonoma Mission Inn housekeepers, cooks, massage therapists and other laborers faced an anti-union campaign last year, after the company hired union busters, threatened reprisals against employees who engaged in union activities and interrogated employees about their union involvement, according to a ruling by Region 20 of the National Labor Relations Board.

Ted Waechter, a representative of Unite Local 2, said the collective strength of workers to withstand the union busting campaign has instilled a new confidence in workers to fight for themselves and support their co-workers.

“Union busting campaigns are designed to poison the well. It’s really a test,” Waechter said. “And so It's a testament to these workers that they were able to come out the other side of that union busting campaign and be stronger than they've ever been.”

Cars traveling by the picket honked in support, while teachers and other Sonoma Valley residents held the line with Sonoma Mission Inn workers, including California Assembly member Damon Connolly, D-San Rafael, who represents the state’s 12th District that includes Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

“It's not just a fight for better wages, adequate working conditions, benefits. It is a fundamental fight for fairness and justice,” Connolly said. “We've stood with SAG-AFTRA. We've stood with fast food workers. We've stood with health care workers. It's now time where we stand with hotel workers and get you the contract that you deserve.”

Workers of the Sonoma Mission Inn are seeking to capitalize on the public’s support of unions that has swelled amid the strikes of Hollywood writers and actors, autoworkers in Detroit and health care workers at Kaiser Permanente.

Friday’s crowd was bigger than that of the “vigil” held in February to raise community support against union busting tactics at the hotel.

“Far fewer workers were willing to come out and stand up,” Waechter said about the start of the unionization campaign. “Now you've got not only the strong community support that we've had from the beginning, but we have beat the anti-union campaign.”

“The union busters are gone, and we are stronger than ever,” he added.

The fevered support of unions is one thing, achieving the goals of workers is another.

Teitzah Karys, a massage therapist at the Sonoma Mission Inn for the past 24 years, is pursuing an institutional change in the labor conditions and relations with the hotel.

“We need the facility fixed, and we need the workers to be treated fairly, and we need to have the staffing so that people don't get hurt,” Karys said. “We need to have the right equipment so people are safe and right.”

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