Bad Hotel: Epic union protest win

This will put a smile on your face for Thursday morning! Workers at San Francisco’s Westin St Francis Hotel have been locked in dispute with managment over their contract and healthcare provision, and things have gotten so bad, that they’ve come to the drastic step of calling for a boycott of their own employer until the situation improves.

Here are San Francisco LGBT activist group Havoq & Pride at Work staging a fantastic flashmob in the hotel lobby, aimed at highlighting the boycott to the thousands flocking to SF (and needing a hotel room) for the annual pride march.

This is really interesting stuff. It’s been picked up pretty widely in just 2 days now, and it will be fascinating to watch the stats and see how far it goes. My betting is that a union protest vid like this will have a far greater reach than a more traditional one of a march of thousands of trade unionists – but crucially far more viral potential with the audience it’s aimed at (pride visitors), rather than with those already converted.

All done with 30 people by the look of it. Admittedly 30 people including talented improvvers, musicians and video makers, and who met I guess for a couple of rehearsals, but still much less effort than putting on a march through town. It’s the flip of a union march: thousands (of whoever happens to be passing) see that on the street, but it never gets reported unless there’s a ruck. With this, only a couple of dozen see the actual stunt, but the edited up message goes online to thousands of more revelant eyeballs.

What this does need though is an idea that is this good. For every viral that works, many don’t. What will unions’ fail to win ratio look like? My guess is that this kind of thing will be the preserve of creative collectives like Pride At Work rather than the unions they support like (in this case) UNITE-HERE, for some time. Too often, unions produce something that we think is stretching our boundaries, but we fail to realise that what we think is externally focused is still only speaking to where we hope the audience are, not where they actually are (eg here’s a hotel boycott video from the same union that gets the message over well and helps the workers tell their story, but the SF one is getting the same traffic per half-hour that it’s had in 2 years) . That’ll change though with time, as good practice like this builds up to help us better understand the challenge.

And in the meantime – here’s how you find out which hotels to avoid for San Francisco Pride.

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