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UNITE HERE E-Activism Newsletter
by UNITE HERE
Monday Feb 25th, 2008 1:47 PM
Statement from UNITE HERE on the Passing of Reverend James E. Orange, Civil Rights Leader and Union Organizer
February 25, 2008
Vol.17, No. 4

Statement from UNITE HERE on the Passing of Reverend James E. Orange, Civil Rights Leader and Union Organizer

UNITE HERE mourns the loss of Rev. James E. Orange, a leader in the civil rights and labor movements and a fighter for working people.

"James was the real connection between the labor and civil rights movements in the South," explains UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor. "He personally built the bridge between the two movements for progressive change in the Southern States from the 1960s through today. Person by person, meeting by meeting, march by march, thousands of current and former UNITE HERE members owe James a debt for helping organize workers, win fights and inspire us all."

Rev. Orange, whose father was fired from his job for union activity in the 1950's, worked as an organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the civil rights movement. He helped organize nonviolent marches during some of the most explosive moments of the civil rights movement. Rev. Orange was arrested more than 100 times for picketing or acts of civil disobedience. His arrest in Selma, Alabama in 1965 is considered one of the catalysts that prompted the first Selma-to-Montgomery march that ended on Bloody Sunday.

Starting in the 1970's until recently, Reverend Orange worked as an organizer in the labor movement for various unions and the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. In 1977, he worked on the organizing campaign of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, a predecessor union of UNITE HERE, that won union representation and benefits for the workers at J.P. Stevens textile and clothing factories. He was an organizer director, leader and inspiration for scores of other textile and apparel campaigns in the South, including the Pillowtex and Cannon Mills campaigns.

Reverend Orange did not like to fly, so he would drive through the night to make round-the-clock shift meetings at the various plants where he was helping workers organize.

"James never turned us down for an organizing campaign meeting or rally, or anything we would ask him to lead us through, because he was first and foremost an inspiration to all of us to fight for a better world in a selfless way," says President Raynor.

Rev. Orange was a leader in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. He founded the M.L. King Jr. March Committee-Africa/African American Renaissance Committee, through which he organized Atlanta's annual King Holiday march and promoted trade between the U.S. and South Africa. He was also active in the immigrants' rights movement, participating in actions and protests that sought paths to U.S. citizenship.

"Reverend Orange was one of the leaders of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride where he played a critical role in assuring that the energy and activity of this new project was consistent with the proud tradition of the African American Freedom Rides. Reverend Orange was insistent that these weren't just related efforts, but in fact part of the greater movement for civil rights and justice," says John W. Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industries, UNITE HERE. "Working with him was a source of great inspiration and I will miss him."

"Leading with his broad shoulders, this gentle giant fought the powers of corporate greed and reactionary politicians from Mississippi to North Carolina for over 50 years, always providing strength and encouragement to the powerless," says President Raynor. "He will be missed in person, but he lives on in our hearts and minds, marching and signing ?We shall overcome, because the union makes us strong.'"

Local 100 Workers Win at New York Life and 55 Water Street


UNITE HERE Local 100 workers have won contract settlements in New York City. These contracts settle two strikes against ARAMARK at New York Life and 55 Water Street. The settlements include maintaining free medical, drug, and dental coverage for the employees and their families and significant pension increases, $4.50 per week every year of the contract. Wage increases at New York Life are 65 cents per hour the first year and 70 cents per hour the next year. At 55 Water Street, wage increases are 65 cents per hour the first year and a total of 65 cents the second year.

Local 100 is preparing for three other contract expirations in the next month and has made public three new organizing drives in Manhattan.

Demonstrators Demand Better for Aramark Cafeteria Workers and Students at the University of Toronto


On February 11th, hundreds of Toronto area foodservice workers, students and supporters braved winds and extreme cold to rally at the University of Toronto, demanding better for Aramark food service workers on college and university campuses across the region.

Aramark workers in the Toronto area complain of being unable to take their legally required breaks, not receiving contractually required wage increases and facing retribution for standing up for respect in their workplaces and organizing a union.

"We need to put an end to employees not receiving holiday pay or wage increases," said Alex Dagg, Canadian Co-Director of UNITE HERE. "And we need to put an end to companies like this thinking it can receive millions of dollars in tax dollars in contracts in our public institutions and get away with not following some of the most basic labor standards in our province. Aramark workers and the students they serve deserve better than this."

Joined by UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor, Toronto City Councilor Adam Vaughan and University of Toronto Student Union Vice-President David Scrivener, members of UNITE HERE's Ontario Council called on the university to improve working conditions and to push the Aramark to provide better services on campus.

"Students routinely complain that they are paying too much for too little from Aramark on campus," said Scrivener. "Considering that, it is outrageous that a multi-billion dollar company like Aramark still treats its workers with such disrespect, pays so little and fights workers who organize for basic improvements in their benefits, pensions and wages."

On the Obama Campaign Trail


As you all know, UNITE HERE worked tremendously hard on behalf of Barack Obama in Nevada. But you might not be aware of the major efforts to help him win in other states across the country.

For the past month, several hundred UNITE HERE members and staff have been making phone calls, knocking on doors, leafleting at work sites, and attending campaign rallies on behalf of Barack Obama. In South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Connecticut, Minnesota, Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, New York, Arizona, California, Washington, Hawaii, and Wisconsin, the union has carried the message of Senator Obama's commitment to working people and worked to make sure he becomes our next president.

In total, Senator Obama has won 24 states to Hillary Clinton's 13. According to the Associated Press Delegate Projection, he leads Hillary Clinton 1,351 to 1,262.

Now, more than 75 members and staff are working hard in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island to make sure that Barack Obama wins those states. To all those who have joined the effort: Thank you. And to those on the campaign trail now: Keep up the great work.

Montreal Cintas Workers Become First to Organize in Company's History


After years of enduring harsh working conditions for low pay, Cintas employees in Montreal, aided by North America's most democratic labor laws, have become the first in the company's history to successfully form a union. The Quebec Labor Board certified Montreal workers' petition to be represented by the Quebec Council of UNITE HERE late last week?more than one year after workers filed for recognition. Cintas delayed workers from having a voice on the job through a series appeals, but the workers stayed strong, says the Quebec Council's Director Lina Aristeo.

"Our efforts were rewarded: we now have our union," says Gabriel Aszalos, a six-year washroom employee. "Even with the long delay, our strong labor laws ensured that our rights were respected. This is a historical victory for us, and we hope it inspires our coworkers throughout the United States and Canada to stand together for safer jobs and a living wage."

Labor and Community Members Rally Outside Google Headquarters


On February 7th, more than one hundred members of UNITE HERE Local 19 and community supporters held a rally next to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The city owns land adjacent to Google where the company plans to develop a four-star hotel and conference center. Google has refused to provide guarantees to the union that hotel workers at the site will be able to choose union representation quickly and without intimidation.

"We have all heard the buzz about how well Google treats its employees," said Enrique Fernandez, Business Manager for UNITE HERE Local 19. "We want Google to live up to its reputation."

Betty Guzman, a Holiday Inn employee, said, "I went to the rally not just for myself but for future hotel workers, who deserve living wages, affordable health care, and the right to choose a union." Union supporters are urging the city council not to approve the hotel deal unless the development reflects community values and protects worker's rights.




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