MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march of hundreds of hotel workers through downtown Minneapolis on Friday, encouraging them to choose negotiation over confrontation in their battle for higher pay.
Workers at nine Minneapolis and Bloomington hotels, members of Local 17 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, have voted to authorize a strike.
''If it does escalate, count on our commitment to make it happen. ... We are going to march until we have purple rain,'' Jackson said to the deafening cheers of the crowd of hotel and restaurant employees who want higher wages and better health care and retirement benefits.
Of the 65 percent of union members who voted, 94 percent rejected the hotels' latest offer. Members include cleaners, cooks and waiters, but not front-desk clerks.
Jackson said the problem is bigger than Minneapolis.
While the nation is experiencing unprecedented prosperity, many Americans are barely scraping by.
''These are not welfare people. These are working people. They work every day of their lives. ... They don't want welfare. They want health care,'' he said.
Hundreds of workers cheered, chanted and banged on pots and pans as he and other politicians and labor leaders spoke. About three dozen police lined the streets with clubs.
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