July 22nd, 2011
More than 600 hotel workers and their supporters rallied in front of the Westin Hotel in Downtown Seattle this afternoon while 150 people gathered in front of the SeaTac Doubletree to support hotel workers who are fighting for livable wages, job security, safe working conditions, and respect on the job.
Two lanes of 5th Avenue between Stewart St. and Virginia St. were blocked for more than 2 hours as workers from Seattle-area hotels were joined by community supporters and labor groups, including members of AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) who are staying at the Westin as part of their national convention.
This summer, union contracts covering over 1,400 workers have expired. The affected hotels and restaurants include the Westin, Edgewater, Seattle Hilton, Washington Athletic Club, Space Needle, SeaTac Hilton, and the Doubletree.
Among other key issues, Seattle hotel workers are fighting for job security. “I have given many years, my body, and my soul to this hotel and now I am here to fight for my job. We are going to fight until we have our jobs, our union, and a fair contract,” said Aracely Cerezo García, a hotel housekeeper at the Hilton Seattle.
During the recession, hotels continued to remain profitable through a combination of layoffs, decreased work schedules and increased workloads for staff, burdening its low-wage workforce. According to the industry’s own projections, hotels will be returning to record profit levels by 2012.
“Seattle is a tourism destination, and hotels are recovering from the economic downturn,” says Erik Van Rossum, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 8. “Will they lift up the workers that kept them in business, or will they keep their workers in a permanent recession? Hotel workers are now mobilizing to ensure they get a fair share of the economic recovery.”
Workers also demand the right to organize free of intimidation and harassment in non-union hotels. “We will not stand by while organizing rights are attacked in Wisconsin and elsewhere. By organizing non-union hotels, we will bring hospitality workers back into the middle class,” Van Rossum added.