Health Care for Working Adults
Over the past year, Working Partnerships has been surveying uninsured working adults to determine their needs and requirements for health coverage.  Based on their responses, we developed the adult health insurance expansion project: a voluntary health coverage program for low income adults working in small businesses.  Up to 40,000 uninsured workers could gain medical, dental, and vision coverage through the small business coverage program.
The next step is to win approval for the program by the County Board of Supervisors, enabling the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System to serve as the provider network for the program. After the program is successfully launched, we will need to secure small business participation so that their workers have access to the program.  Working Partnerships USA is currently leading a partnership to develop the program, building partnerships with small businesspeople, and organizing community groups to advocate for the program’s implementation.
Read more about the adult health insurance project

Support for Worker Organizing
Low wage workers in the region and the nation continue to fight for better pay, working conditions and benefits.  While corporate profits go sky high, wages are not keeping up. As the cost of living increases, many workers are forced to take two or three jobs just to feed their families and pay the rent.  Individual workers cannot face multinational corporations on their own; joining a union is the workers’ most effective means of improving their working conditions.

Hotel Workers Rising
Hotel workers in particular are facing a crisis.  After the recession following 9/11, many hotels slashed their workforce in half.  The hotel industry has largely recovered, yet the number of workers remains a fraction of what it was prior to the recession.  As a result, in nonunion facilities, workers are skipping their breaks and staying after their shifts in a frantic effort to keep up with their ever-increasing workload.

This problem is particularly drastic for housekeepers.  As hotel chains have introduced heavier beds and increased the housekeeper workload, many housekeepers face daily pain as they struggle to meet these increasing demands.  At the same time, health care costs continue to rise, with some workers being asked to pay $300 a month for family health insurance, much more than they can afford, and therefore being forced to rely on public assistance.

Workers at the San Jose DoubleTree Hotel are part of a national movement called Hotel Workers Rising, which seeks better working conditions for hotel workers across the country. In the South Bay, Working Partnerships has provided support for these workers through community education and outreach.  The Interfaith Council has brought the attention of dozens of local congregations to the moral importance of workers’ dignity at the DoubleTree.

In September 2006, an overwhelming majority of DoubleTree workers signed cards for union representation, joining UNITE HERE Local 19.  They are currently involved in contract negotiations to gain

  • Affordable health care and a safe working environment: The cost of the DoubleTree’s family health insurance must be reduced from $300 a month and brought within reach of the workers so that they are no longer forced to rely on public assistance.  The contract must also create a safe workplace and address the numerous causes of workplace injuries.
  • Humane workload and fair scheduling:  Understaffing in nearly all areas of the hotel requires workers to work involuntary, unpaid overtime through breaks, lunches, and after hours.  The workload for housekeepers is particularly crushing due to the intensely physical nature of their jobs.  Scheduling policies are also unfair and pay no regard to the long years of service that many workers have given to the hotel.
  • Fair wages and compensation: Wages average only $7.50 to $8.50 an hour, or about $1300 to $1473 monthly for full time work.  Banquet workers are denied the gratuities that guests leave for them, which are pocketed by the hotel instead.

Faith and community leaders continue to provide indispensable support for these workers’ campaign to gain a voice at work.  To learn more or get involved, please contact Robin Metalitz, Community Organizer.
Learn more about the Interfaith Council’s support for DoubleTree workers.

Service Workers Rising: A Code of Conduct for Responsible Business Leaders
The subcontracted service industry is infamous for its poor treatment of workers.  In Silicon Valley, the disparity is especially glaring between the prosperous high-tech and bio-tech companies headquartered throughout the region, and the foodservice workers who serve in their cafeterias for low wages, little or no job security, and often under working conditions that are often hazardous their health.  The high-tech companies refuse to take any responsibility for the people who serve food every day at their facilities, hiding behind the excuse that the workers are employed through subcontractors.

These subcontracted foodservice employees have begun to stand up for fair treatment through a campaign called Service Workers Rising. In Silicon Valley, this effort is led by workers at Guckenheimer, a food service company whose clients include Genentech, Adobe, Applied Materials, AMD and Gilead Sciences.

Working Partnerships USA is supporting the efforts of the workers and the UNITE HERE union to create a high road partnership with high-tech companies. On January 29th, 2007, over 300 community members were joined by Danny Glover and Dolores Huerta in a rally highlighting workers’ needs and the high tech industry’s responsibilities. 

In the coming months, the Interfaith Council will be working with the religious community to develop a parallel effort by endorsing a “Code of Conduct for Responsible Business Leaders” and asking them to join us in ensuring that service jobs provide a future for the families who work in Silicon Valley.  The Code of Conduct campaign will encourage high tech and biotech companies to develop a responsible outsourcing policy for food service companies, with the initial goals of improved job security and an end to on-the-job intimidation and scare tactics. 
_Read our Executive Director’s opinion piece about Service Workers Rising [Link: PDF of op-ed]

Coyote Valley
In Coyote Valley, the people of San Jose are designing an entire town nearly from scratch. This is a unique opportunity to get it done right the first time.

Coyote Valley, a massive urban reserve in southern San Jose, is slated to add 70,000 new residents, 50,000 jobs, and 25,000 units of housing. An unprecedented coalition including Working Partnerships USA, the Greenbelt Alliance, and other environmental, neighborhood, and transit and housing advocacy organizations has worked for years to put forward a plan to build a Coyote Valley that embodies the principles of smart and equitable growth. As a progressive voice on the Coyote Valley Task Force, Working Partnerships USA’s efforts to advocate for a broad range of issues have been vital to our successes thus far. By working to bring the voices of all our coalition partners to the table, we are not only ensuring that the Coyote Valley plan embodies the principles of smart and equitable growth, but also creating a replicable model for building local labor-community-environmental coalitions.

As the city’s project moves forward, Working Partnerships USA will bring together community residents to work with our allies, the Specific Plan Task Force, and the City Council to ensure that the elements of a social equity framework we have hammered out over the past few years are incorporated into the final, Council-approved Specific Plan for Coyote Valley.
Read more about our efforts in Coyote Valley

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