Off the Clock

Hotel Voice, Spring 2023

Two HTC members from the Pierre Hotel are subjects of President Barack Obama’s new Netflix series Working: What We Do All Day

Housekeeper Elba Guzman (left) and PBX Operator and Delegate Beverly Aponte (right) meeting with President Obama at the Pierre Hotel.

”Hi Beverly,” President Barack Obama told PBX Operator and Union Delegate Beverly Aponte when he met her at the Pierre Hotel earlier this year. “I heard you run this place.”

President Obama met Beverly, Room Attendant Elba Guzman, and other union members at the Pierre while filming Working: What We Do All Day, his new five-part documentary series for Netflix that investigates what it looks like to work in America today. The series follows several people from a diverse set of geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, as they go about their daily lives on the job and at home.

Elba and Beverly are the stars of the show’s first two episodes: they describe what their jobs mean for them and their families, and — as the only union members featured in the program — they share with a national audience what a difference it makes to have the stability and security provided by a strong union.

In the first episode, the cameras capture several union members discussing the threat of emerging technology and automation in the hotel industry. Beverly interjects: “That’s the reason why we need the Union, you know!”

“We have to stick together, and ain’t nothing gonna close in here. Management is management, but union is union.”

“That’s like my catchphrase! It’s my way of saying that we will always have union protection,” Beverly told the Hotel Voice. “So I’m glad they put it in the show!”

“It was an incredible honor to get the chance to represent the difference that it makes in life to be a union member on such a big platform,” she shared. “And it was just a bonus that Michelle Obama put me on her Instagram!”

Elba shared similar feelings about being featured in the documentary. “When I agreed to do the show, I didn’t know that President Obama was going to be the producer,” said Elba. “So when I met him, it was an unbelievable surprise. Like a dream come true.”

Elba has been working hard as far back as she can remember, and getting a union job at the Pierre more than two decades ago changed her life for the better. She now sees her involvement in this documentary as a meaningful payoff for so many years of effort. “I feel so lucky to have this job. We work hard, but we have the good wages and protections from the Union. I’m glad we got to share that with the world.”

"A lucky few work in Union shops like the Pierre, but with most domestic care jobs, or in the gig economy, you're still on your own," President Obama says in the documentary.

"Let's be blunt, there's always someone at the top of the ladder and someone at the bottom. That's especially true with capitalism, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise. But as a society, we do get to decide what work looks like for working people. We can make those jobs better or we can make ‘em worse. We can give people more dignity, or less. Those are choices we make."