Coalition Launches Hospitality Boot Camp to Increase Diversity in LA-area Hotels
Â Diversity Boot Camp Coalition
By Rev. William D. Smart
Hassan Saladdin, a smiley and polished young father of three and ex-Army private, has long thought a job in the hospitality industry would suit him.
“I’ve always been good with people, making them smile, making them laugh,” Saladin said. “And that’s what hotels want–somebody to make guests feel good.”
But Saladdin said when it came to applying at a hotel, the out-of-work Dad stopped short.
“When you look around and you don’t see people who look like you, you start to feel uneasy, like maybe you’re not wanted,” Saladdin, who is African-American, said. “The lack of diversity is noticeable.”
In an effort to address this problem, the Diversity Task Force, a coalition made up of hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE Local 11, hotels, community groups and local clergy, launched this week the first-ever Hospitality Boot Camp–a five-day intensive training session designed to give African-Americans the skills necessary to land a job in Los Angeles’ fastest-growing industry.
Saladdin is one of the camp’s first 20 participants. After a lengthy interview process for applicants, the Boot Camp kicked off Monday at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood with opening remarks from members of the Diversity Task Force.
“I am excited to be a part of this program that will open the door to good-paying union jobs for African-Americans,” said Rev. Dr. Lewis Logan, Pastor of Ruach Christian Community Fellowship. “As hope and real opportunities rise, homicides and other maladies the plague our communities will decline.”
Bruce Gorelick, general manager of the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa and one of the architects of the Boot Camp curriculum, said good careers with long-term security are available in the hospitality industry, and he is proud to be a part of this collective effort to make those jobs available to all.
“In the next four months, more than 1,000 jobs will be made available in Los Angeles hotels. Our goal is to have you at one of those hotels,” Gorelick told participants.
Gorelick was referring to two new hotels–the JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton at LA Live downtown opening in early 2010 and the W Hotel in Hollywood–slated to open this year. Both hotels are expected to agree to a card check recognition, which allows workers to choose whether to have union representation without the antagonism and delays that characterizes the NLRB election process. In many Los Angeles area hotels that are unionized, workers are guaranteed family health coverage, annual wage increases, pension benefits, career advancement opportunities and a voice in their workplace.
Boot Camp participants who complete the program will be given preferential placement during the hiring process.
Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles Country Federation of Labor, told participants that the idea for the Boot Camp dates back to 2004, when hotel workers raised concerns about the lack of diversity during contract negotiations with management.
“The hotels agreed and recognized we had to do something to open the doors of this industry to the entire community, particularly the African-American community,” Durazo said.
Durazo said the Boot Camp shows what is possible when labor, management and community groups come together to tackle a problem.
The Boot Camp will end Friday, but organizers have already registered 20 more participants for the second camp to take place in early November. For more information on the Diversity Task Force, please visit launionhoteljobs.com.