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Going Gaga Over Workers’ Rights

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Credit: Joe Kekeris
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Lady Gaga recently made an unexpected appearance at the Westin Saint Francis hotel in San Francisco—in the form of a flash mob singing a pro-worker version of lyrics to her “Bad Romance.” Replete with tuba, trombone, snare drum and a couple dozen dancing activists, the group materialized in the hotel’s lobby to denounce the chain’s poor treatment of its employees and urge people to “Boycott, boycott,” this “bad, bad hotel.”

Sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of Pride At Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group for LGBTQ workers, the action demonstrated support for the more than 9,000 workers in the area who have been working without a contract since August 2009 at several Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood and InterContinental Hotels (the Westin is owned by Starwood). The activists created the song and dance routine to tell the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people from across the country coming to San Francisco in June for Pride Week to honor the worker-called boycott.

After repeated attempts at negotiations, hotel management is trying to deny the workers, members of UNITEHERE! Local 2, affordable, quality health care. As San Francisco Pride At Work notes:

This is despite soaring profits at these multinational corporations. The Starwood Corporation made $180 million in profit in the first nine months of 2009. The Hyatt Corporation generated $950 million for its majority owner—the Pritzker family, and Hilton Hotels recently announced that they have $12.6 billion in available capital to invest in new high-asset ventures over the next several years.

The musical show of solidarity didn’t stop at the Westin. The group snake-danced their way out of the lobby and went on to perform the same skit at the Grand Hyatt down the block.

After all:

Boycott, boycott!

Workers’ rights are hot!

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Blog on May 7, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee (they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union—the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism—covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia—she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.


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