Organizing takes time

After eight months of organizing in Santa Fe, N.M., the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) has yet to claim a single unionized shop. That's proof that Santa Fe tourism workers don't want a union, says Art Bouffard of the New Mexico Hotel/Motel Association. But organizer Jesse Case insists it's not check-out time for the union yet; the group intentionally waited to start its sign-up drive until it could garner some community support. City officials have been cautious, but encouraging, says Case, pointing to a recent resolution by the Santa Fe City Council that backs workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively. Case says Santa Fe - where tourism supports one in five residents and where wealthy new residents steadily push working-class families into trailer-park barrios - is ripe territory for a union. The hotels' Bouffard argues that Santa Fe's service industry offers competitive wages (maids make about $40 a day), but Case says the issue isn't how hospitality workers are doing compared to other low-wage workers. He questions whether anyone in Santa Fe should have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. For more information, contact HERE at 310 Read St., Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505/820-1393) or the New Mexico Hotel/Motel Association at 1478 South St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505/983-4554).

* Jill K. Cliburn