The ACLU of Southern California today joined with community leaders in support of Maria Elena Durazo, president of Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. On Thursday, Ms. Durazo completed an eleven day hunger-strike to draw attention to the union's four-year fight to win a written guarantee of job security for cafeteria workers and janitors at The University of Southern California. The ACLU, among other organizations and individuals supporting the union, have pledged to take up the hunger strike, each agreeing to go one day with only water.
The union is demanding that the university pledge, in writing, that it will not hire outside contractors to perform the jobs now handled by 360 union employees. The workers' contract expired in 1995, and despite the fact that USC and the union agreed on nearly all terms of a renewal, a new contract has not been signed because the university will not agree to subcontracting services.
"This is a matter of principle, a matter of simple economic justice," said ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston. "We stand in solidarity with Maria and all of the members of Local 11 who continue to demand fairness and justice from USC."
Beatriz Lopez Flores, vice-president of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said, "It's critically important that the rights of workers are protected by providing some measure of security in agreements between USC and its empployees. We recognize and are very appreciative of Maria's dedication to achieving this goal."
Edward Asner, the prominent actor and activist said in a statement of support, "If the ivory tower cannot render fair employment conditions to those workers on its lower rungs, can we actually call it a center of intelligent learning? Bravo, Maria! May your hardship produce results for your people who in turn are our people."