By HENRY ERIC and C.J. LAPOINTE
“Over 85% of us have decided to form this union!” Lupe Martinez, a banquet server, declared as a mass of workers from the Hilton Hotel in Stamford, Conn., confronted General Manager Robert Langevin with their demand for union recognition. The workers’ cheers filled the lobby as Langevin stood there, shocked by the delegation of over 100 workers and their supporters.
The workers’ demand for a union should come as no surprise. The conditions at the Hilton are horrible. Some housekeepers are cleaning up to 40 rooms per shift. Housekeeper Myrtha Aclin said, “They treat us like slaves.” The workers expressed feelings of being deeply disrespected by management. Irwin, part of the kitchen staff, said, “We’re tired of the exploitation of this job. We tell the bosses, ‘please respect us, please listen,’ but they never do.”
For most workers, getting their health care through the company means sacrificing a big chunk of their paycheck. Those who can’t afford it go without. Many cannot even get enough hours at work, and the wages are so low that they must work two or three jobs. Workers from Haiti, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and other parts of the globe labor hard to support their families.
The workers have decided to form their union with the help of UNITE HERE Local 217. The decision of the workers in Stamford comes days after 1000 workers at the Green Valley Ranch Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., voted in favor of joining UNITE HERE. The casino workers won a hard battle against a difficult union busting campaign, with 78% voting “yes”!
For Hilton workers, the battle is just beginning. It will be weeks before an election in which workers can vote for the union. In the coming days we’re likely to find out how far the bosses will go to try to smash the confidence of the workers.
Solidarity is invaluable, and there’s no doubt the Hilton workers will get their share from Local 217 members across the state. Members of Local 217 from the Hyatt Hotel just minutes away in Greenwich, Conn., joined the rally to express their support. Dennis Fiore, head union steward at the Hyatt said, “We’re extremely happy that you guys are coming on board, and we’re here to help you!”
There was energy and excitement percolating among the workers in the lobby of the Hilton as they handed their letter of intent to form a union to the general manager. It shows the potential for future fightbacks of the working class. We stand in solidarity with the Hilton workers and look forward to their victory.
Watch the video, courtesy of Left Voice: