After my summer with Unite HERE! Local 1 in Chicago last summer, I spent much of this year at Haverford aching to get back into union work. I have been at Local 75 in Toronto for three days now, and it feels so wonderful to be back in the trenches again.
My job this summer is very different from my job last summer. Last summer, I was mostly organizing. For those of you unfamiliar with what union organizing entails, I would be walking around in the “back of the house” (i.e. employee areas) of the hotels which I was assigned, talking to employees about working conditions, recent events in their workplaces, and upcoming events which the union was planning. Here, I’m doing a broader mix of the union’s various tasks. It has only been three days, and already I have sat in on a lead organizers’ planning meeting; shadowed organizers in hotels, college dorms, and the Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays); reviewed memos for the research department; and prepared a memo on Ontario’s Pay Equity Act for the union’s in-house lawyers. Tomorrow, I will be attending a meeting of the union’s executive board, as well as a press conference on the risk of sexual assault that room attendants in hotels face (highlighted publicly by the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn just weeks ago, and more recently by that of Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar yesterday). It’s been a hectic several days, and the various jobs I have done have highlighted a lot of the differences between the legal systems of the United States and Canada, as well as the differences between the two locals and how their contracts work. I will try to touch on as many of these differences as I can as my summer progresses, and as I get a firmer handle on exactly how everything works.