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Claremont Union Rally Draws Major Turnout

Friday October 17, 2003

Workers at the Claremont Hotel were joined by scores of supporters Wednesday as they rallied in front of the resort to dramatize their long-running battle to force the Claremont to negotiate new contracts for workers throughout the resort. 

For over two years, the hotel has been embroiled in a battle with the Oakland-based Hotel Employees and Restaurant Workers Union (HERE) Local 2850, which has been promoting a boycott against them and is currently trying to help employees in the food and beverages department and rooms division negotiate new contracts. 

The union is also involved in helping workers at the resort’s spa negotiate their first-ever contract through a card-check agreement. 

Organizers said the theme of the rally was “Together at Last,” because it was the first time workers from all three parts of the hotel could demonstrate together. Until recently, workers from the rooms division—which includes workers from room service and the front desk—were still under contract and prohibited from walking a picket line. 

Workers were joined Wednesday by a host of elected officials who came out to show their support, including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, State Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio and a representative from Barbara Lee’s office. 

“I support business and want everyone to thrive, but at the same time, especially here in the East Bay with the high cost of living, we need the workers to be compensated,” said Carson. “If you have happy workers you have a healthy business.” 

Claire Darby, a Local 2850 organizer working with the Claremont employees, said everyone involved was happy to see the turnout and felt confident that the Claremont is getting the message from the community that they want them to provide all the workers with a fair contract. 

“I was really excited to see the political and community support,” said Darby. “It just shows that the support is getting stronger and stronger.” 

Darby said that ever since the room services department’s contract expired it has been obvious that the Claremont has “been living in fear” of a possible worker walkout from all departments which could effectively shut the resort down. 

“They were fearful that the rally was going to be a worker stoppage, so they sent out a letter to employees saying that if there was a walkout they would lock them out,” she said. 

The Claremont did not return calls concerning the rally. 

Darby said the resort has returned to the bargaining table with new offers that are closer to what the workers are demanding—offers she described as positive but still inadequate. 

“They have moved a lot on health care, one of the main issues, but the workers have said we can do better,” Darby said, adding that workers had compared the offer to other East Bay union contracts and decided it didn’t match up.  

“People know what they want and what they deserve and are going to keep fighting for it,” she said.