UNITE HERE (formerly the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union or HERE), Local 483 was founded back in 1937, (then known as the Hotel, Motel, Restaurant, and Bartenders Union, Local 483), and has been a leader in the struggle for workers’ rights on the Monterey Bay ever since. Local 483 is an affiliate of UNITE HERE! International Union, which began in 1891 as HERE and in July 2004 merged with UNITE (the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees). We represent over 1,300 hospitality workers on the Monterey Bay at more than three dozen hotels, restaurants, and golf courses.
Most of the original members of Local 483, over a half-Century ago during the Great Depression, were workers in the restaurants and bars of Monterey’s bustling Wharf and Cannery Row areas. These workers were spurred on to organize by the death of a fellow worker who had not been paid enough money to cover his funeral costs. Together, the founding members of our union pooled their earnings to cover the burial costs of their departed friend and began a fund to make sure other workers could afford funeral expenses in the future. This original moment of solidarity between dozens of restaurant and bar employees, quickly grew into a union of thousands, working together for justice on the job and a better life for working families.
In the early years, strikes were frequent, as workers had to walk off the job and onto the picket lines just to get pennies more for a whole day’s work. In 1950, for instance, Local 483 members went on strike for 17 days at 8 Monterey restaurants to push the restaurant owners to pay servers and dishwashers 25 cents more per day. Two years later, the Union negotiated its first multi-year contract, welcoming longer-term security for Local 483 members and initiating three decades of relative labor peace in the Monterey Bay hospitality industry. That period ended in 1982, when Local 483 went on another 17-day strike at 22 hotels, this time pressuring hotel owners into accepting for the first time in Monterey Peninsula hospitality industry history two paid sick days, two paid holidays, and free meals for housekeepers, maintenance, and front desk workers.
The sacrifices of our Union members over the last 75 years have led to great gains. Local 483 workers now earn 20 to 50 percent more than the average non-union Monterey Bay hospitality worker, have fully-paid health insurance for themselves and their families where non-union workers often must pay hundreds of dollars per month, and—as many who have worked in both union and nonunion houses know—demand greater respect on the job.
Local 483 members will continue to shape the history of the Monterey Bay area in the years ahead. The Monterey Peninsula has emerged as one of the world’s leading tourist sites over the last several decades. Hospitality workers now account for a third of all employees on the Peninsula, with UNITE HERE Local 483 representing half of the full-service hotel employees. Yet, recent years of soaring living costs and the large industry cutbacks in hospitality employee work-hours have made the need for a better deal between the workers and hotel companies all the more urgent. Following the lessons of Local 483’s past, we will win by working hard together, in big numbers, through many voices, with one unwavering message: JUSTICE!