Each year at Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA), we choose a couple of issues to focus on to fulfill our mission: to make a very close community for Jewish high school students in the California Bay Area, while learning about and working on social issues that affect us in our communities. This year, we chose the Hotel Workers Campaign. Going into it, I didn’t really know much about the campaign, or the way workers were being treated in hotels close to me. The first exposure I had was a city council meeting I went to in Emeryville about getting workers at the Emeryville Woodfin a living wage, and getting back pay for all of the time they were not getting paid fairly. Before the city council meeting started, there was a community gathering with workers and community leaders speaking about their experience and involvement in the campaigns. This event gave me the first taste of why this campaign was so important, because I saw workers getting silenced by the hotel because they were in very vulnerable positions, and they needed the community to take a stand next to them.

In the next couple of months, I learned more about the campaign through JYCA and PJA (Progressive Jewish Alliance), and specifically learned about the two main hotels that were being focused on. Economic justice is very important to me, because it signifies something that should be a given for all people, but instead these employers seem to take advantage of people who are already in very vulnerable positions – so I wanted to be involved. I went to a different rally with JYCA, in which we joined hundreds of people in a rally walking to and around the hotel. Soon after that, PJA invited JYCA members to participate in a planning session for next steps, and when I got there, I got a totally new experience. Up until that point all of my experiences with the planning of making change in the progressive world had been very idealistic, but I had never participated in a truly tangible form of action. This meeting taught me a little bit of what it takes to make true change in the world. During this meeting I signed JYCA up to adopt a picket line, which means that we took responsibility for that day of picketing. Despite having a hard time getting a lot of the JYCA youth out to the picket, we got out there 10 strong and were met by many hotel workers and Local 2 union members. It was very exciting to see all of those people, and we joined in the picket line, circling around and chanting.

It’s been very important for me, as a Jew, to be doing this with the Jewish community, because it is a very important struggle, and it’s nice to see us step up for others when we have the privilege to do so. The thing that I’ve taken most from this experience is the immediate connection I have felt to everyone else who is involved in this campaign. Starting with the initial rally, and spanning to the planning meeting and final picket line, everyone has always showed me a very open and welcoming spirit. I always feel like a part of the group, and I truly believe that I make a difference, which is a success in my mind. I am really looking forward to the next event, a Banquet in the Streets in support of a fair process for workers, because it is another opportunity for me to build this community, while having a lot of fun, while also making a huge difference in the lives of these workers.

David Shor is a graduating senior at Berkeley High in Berkeley, CA. He starts at Wesleyan University in the Fall.

PJA: www.pjalliance.org
Banquet in the Streets: