Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Controversy Erupts Over SASA Hotel Choice

One of the rites of passage for many college-aged desis in North America is the annual conference of the South Asian Students Alliance, more commonly known as SASA. The conference, this year being held in Los Angeles from January 13-16th, seems to be drawing the ire of workers rights’ and other activists concerned with a boycott/strike being endorsed by almost 3,000 hotel workers against nine luxury Los Angeles-area hotels over an ongoing contract dispute with the owners, according to NBC4.tv. Labor groups including the AFL-CIO, The Los Angeles Coalition to Support Hotel Workers and the Los Angeles hotel worker's union UNITE HERE Local 11 are boycotting the hotels located throughout the city, including the official SASA conference hotel, The Wilshire Grand.

The Coalition said 3,000 hotel workers have been without a contract since it expired in March. Workers are demanding increased wages, health care benefits, a contract through 2006 and a national voice to ensure a fair contract. "They don't respect us," said Donald Wilson, banquet chef at the Century Plaza Hotel, one of the other hotels being boycotted. "They say they treat us like family, but when it comes to contract time they treat us like stepchildren." Wilson said he had worked at the Century for 26 years, and until their contract ran out this year employees always had free health care. A $40 monthly co-payment is now required, an amount many employees with families cannot afford.

In all fairness, according to a story in USC Daily Trojan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Hotel Employer Council said a contract currently being offered by the hotels offers free health care along with a 20 percent wage increase over a five-year contract period.

The Hotel Employer Council spokesmen alleges however, that "workers don't want to accept it because it is a five-year contract” and the workers “want a two-year plan so they can join up with other cities for a 2006 national labor action."

Anyway, to promote some kind of action from the South Asian student community, a group, known as the South Asians for Change is calling for the organizers of SASA to either change the location and show solidarity with the workers, or for students to boycott SASA altogether.


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