People all over San Antonio and students at Trinity are involved with Unite Here, a union that represents laborers from multiple different industries including hotel, food service and textiles.
The organization does student outreach with many campuses including UTSA, St. Mary’s and Our Lady Of Lake. Last year the organization came to Trinity in an effort to raise awareness and reach out to students.
” I attended an event that was hosted in the Esplanade first semester freshman year organized by the Sexual Diversity Alliance. There was a table and I stopped by and she told me what they do. I liked what she told me and what Unite Here stood for so I signed up for the training session,” said Dima Alhourani, a sophomore.
In San Antonio, the union has worked on major projects like the boycott of the Hyatt hotel chain and Mi Tia, the Tip Integrity Act, which specifically affects downtown San Antonio food service workers.
” We launched a global boycott of the Hyatt hotel. We are asking customers not to use any Hyatt hotels in the world and there is a handful of exceptions,” said Rachel Melendes, an organizer at Unite Here.
According to Melendes, the Hyatt has a high rate of injury among its hotel housekeepers. In San Antonio, the housekeepers could clean up to thirty rooms in one shift. The union standard which is in place in other cities is fourteen.
“They are doing twice the amount of work in the same amount of time,” said Melendes.
People from a variety of backgrounds work and volunteer with the union. The union is able to connect a diverse group of people like students in college all over San Antonio, labor workers and even lawyers. The volunteers perform multiple duties including talking to laborers and other citizens to bring awareness to certain issues like the Tip Integrity Act.
” I loved working around the riverwalk for the first semester. I would go down every week. On Friday after class I would take the bus and go down. Anyone who is wearing uniform or looks like they are going to work, I would go up to them and tell them about Mi Tia. I bonded with so many people and I learned not to be afraid,” Alhourani said.
The union is currently working on the final stages of Mi Tia, the Tip Integrity Act which according to Alhourani has a lot of support from city council.
” We are trying to get an ordinance passed called Mi Tia which protects workers from getting their tips stolen. It is just a local fight right here in San Antonio. A lot of companies when its not busy will cut staff and only keep the server there and then they would charge an automatic tip out, and we found out the company was keeping that money,” said Christine, an organizer at Unite Here.
Unite here workers then went out and talked to food service workers all over San Antonio. They found out it was happening in a variety of areas in San Antonio and in different contexts and situations.
” I believe it is really important for students to engage in this because you are in the real world at such a young age. We tend especially at Trinity to be not so exposed to the outside world. I am still doing [the union] because I feel I grow so much. I grow mentally and academically. We need to be aware of these things at a young age. We need well informed you citizens to make the right decisions when there is injustice happening,” Alhourani said.