News & Commentary

December 10, 2023

Will Ebeler

Will Ebeler is a student at Harvard Law School.

In this weekend’s news and commentary, Southern California hotel workers reach tentative deal with four Hilton hotels; Amazon workers accuse the company of more union-busting; and Microsoft agrees to convert temporary subcontracted workers to in-unit Microsoft employees.

Over the weekend, Unite Here Local 11 announced that it had reached tentative agreements with four Hilton hotels throughout Southern California. The agreements will cover about 1800 workers across the four hotels. The union will release specific details of the agreements if they are ratified, but has said the agreements will raise wages, strengthen pensions, and improve healthcare. The union represents more than 15,000 housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and front desk workers in roughly 60 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Since their previous contracts expired on June 30 of this year, the union has reached tentative agreements with nine hotels. However, the union hopes the coming holidays and Hollywood awards season will help pressure the companies to settle negotiations. As John discussed last week, hotels have been accused of exploiting unhoused migrants, including migrant children, to replace striking workers, and last week California Democrats in the House sent a letter to the Department of Labor and FEMA requesting that the agencies investigate the hotels.

Workers and organizers at Amazon are accusing the company of retaliating against union organizers. Amazon fired Connor Spence, a co-founder of Amazon Labor Union, on November 29. The company has claimed Spence violated a company policy restricting access of off-duty workers to facilities. The National Labor Relations Board has alleged that this policy violates federal labor law and is seeking to have it overturned. In October, Spence led an employee walkout at Amazon’s Staten Island facility to push for higher pay and an end to discrimination against pregnant workers. He has said he helped plan for the walkout by visiting the site while off duty. 

In addition to its termination of Mr. Spence, Amazon has allegedly ramped up a union-busting campaign at Amazon Air Hub at the Cincinnati/Kentucky International Airport. Managers reportedly confronted employees handing out union materials, checked their employee badges multiple times, and told them that they were being insubordinate for setting up tables in the entrance pathway. After the workers refused to stop tabling, 11 of them received write-ups threatening termination. In addition to this discipline, the company has held mandatory anti-union meetings, questioned workers involved in the campaign, and sent out mass emails and texts.

Finally, Microsoft recently agreed to convert a group of subcontracted temporary workers to unionized employees. In January the company agreed to collectively bargain with ZeniMax Workers United, an affiliate of Communications Workers of America that represents 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax, a Microsoft-owned video game studio. As part of ongoing negotiations with the union, it agreed that 77 contract workers doing similar work would join the bargaining unit. These workers had technically been employed by a staffing agency until now. 

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