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UNITE HERE Picket

On June 20, 2009, supporters of the UNITE HERE-led boycott of the Hilton Crystal City formed a picket line in honor of the anniversary of the beginning of the boycott due to alleged unfair labor practices on the part of the hotel’s operators, Columbia Sussex.

The event consisted of three stages.  The first stage was a simple picket outside of the Hilton Crystal City, where demonstrators marched in a circle in front of the hotel in a designated area filling one lane of the one-way South Clark Street.  The second stage involved the entire group’s spreading out to fill the entire street.  In the third stage, a group of ten people was arrested one by one as part of a civil disobedience action, where they sat in the street with arms locked until they were arrested.

According to an article in DC Indymedia:

On the evening of June 20th, 2009, several hundred workers, supporters, and community allies took to the streets in Crystal City, honoring the anniversary of the boycott UNITE HERE workers declared on their own hotel, the Hilton Crystal City.

In a 400-strong show of force workers and the community let the bosses know that rather than giving up the fight when Columbia Sussex imposed a contract (as of May 1st), they would only fight harder.

After an hour of solid picketing and chanting, the people took the street in front of the hotel, blocking all traffic, until the police gave the order to return to the sidewalk.  While most of the workers and supporters returned to the sidewalk and resumed picketing, ten folks remained in the street, locked arms, and sat down, refusing to move until they were all placed under arrest, all to an enthusiastic crowd chanting “Columbia-Sussex unfair” and “No Justice, No peace”.

The workers’ contract at the Hilton expired the end of 2007.  Since then, Columbia-Sussex management has tried to fleece workers at the Hilton Crystal City anywhere they possibly can.  They have tried to cut out sick days, pensions, skyrocket the costs of healthcare, eliminate seniority rights, increase workloads, decrease salaries, and merge and eliminate positions.  The contract imposed May 1st effectively did all these things (although workers were later given back their pensions in a move to avoid massive tax penalties that would be imposed on the management).  In 2008, the workers, by an 85% margin for a boycott of their own hotel, and by summer of 2008 the boycott had gone public.  Since then, there have been regular leaflets and pickets in front of the hotel, by both workers and community allies.


Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.

On the sidewalk facing Jefferson Davis Highway, two people hold a sign reading "BOYCOTT" to inform drivers of the action that is underway.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.

A man shouts into a megaphone in the center of the picket area in front of the Hilton Crystal City.  Two people stood in the center of the picket area, and shouted chants into a bullhorn.  A man signs a petition in support of the union action.  A man holds up two soda cans converted into noisemakers.

Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.

Two people carry an "Animal Advocates Standing with the Hilton Workers" sign.  This was the only sign that went somewhat off-message.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  A child beats a makeshift drum with sticks on the sidewalk to the side of the main picket.

Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  Demonstrators walk the picket lines outside the Hilton Crystal City.  The picket enters its second stage, as the group spread itself out across the entire road, completely blocking the one-way South Clark Street, thereby blocking access to the Hilton Crystal City.

The picket enters its second stage, as the group spread itself out across the entire road, completely blocking the one-way South Clark Street, thereby blocking access to the Hilton Crystal City.  The picket enters its second stage, as the group spread itself out across the entire road, completely blocking the one-way South Clark Street, thereby blocking access to the Hilton Crystal City.  The picket enters its second stage, as the group spread itself out across the entire road, completely blocking the one-way South Clark Street, thereby blocking access to the Hilton Crystal City.  The picket enters its second stage, as the group spread itself out across the entire road, completely blocking the one-way South Clark Street, thereby blocking access to the Hilton Crystal City.

In the picket's final stage, a row of people sat in the street with locked arms as part of a civil disobedience action.  In the picket's final stage, a row of people sat in the street with locked arms as part of a civil disobedience action.  In the picket's final stage, a row of people sat in the street with locked arms as part of a civil disobedience action.

In the picket's final stage, a row of people sat in the street with locked arms as part of a civil disobedience action.  The first demonstrator is arrested and led away.  An Arlington Police officer tells a demonstrator that she will be arrested if she remains in the street.  As the arrests occur, the picket line continues.

Lighted sign at the top of the Hilton Crystal City building.  Signs stacked in a pile and noisemakers lined up in a row at the end of the picket.  Rally at the end of the picket event.

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