By ERNIE GOTTA
— STAMFORD, Conn. — Workers at the Stamford Hilton Hotel walked off the job Thursday, March 8, to strike for a good contract. They picketed in front of the entry way for nearly two hours, chanting, “No contract, No Peace.”
[See the video: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.abbe.7/videos/10214115775642871/ ]
Members of International Women’s Strike Connecticut joined the picket line in solidarity. They made the connection between the Stamford union fight and the millions of women who marched in countries around the world on International Women’s Day demanding better wages, working conditions, an end to sexual abuse, immigrant rights, an end to racism, health care, and jobs. More than 5.3 million people marched in Spain alone.
The struggle for a good contract at the Stamford Hilton was broadened to include contract fights at the Hartford Hilton and New Haven Omni hotels.
Last month, workers from all three hotels had a meeting. All three are owned by different companies but are organized by workers through Unite Here Local 217. All three are headed in to difficult contract negotiations. They met to discuss and vote on a joint strategy to win good contracts. They were joined by workers from the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich and RSB cafeteria in Stamford, who also represented by Local 217.
The meeting voted overwhelmingly for three demands to popularize their campaign publicly—better wages, free quality health care, and pensions.
How are these hotel workers planning to win? In a recent Truthout article, “Stamford Workers Show how to Transform our Unions and Rebuild the Labor Movement,” Andrew Tillet-Saks, organizer for Local 217, outlined their strategy. The article shows the potential of rebuilding the labor movement through militant rank and file union democracy, mobilizations, and class independence.
Local 217 doesn’t plan on taking concessions. They’re fighting back in a serious way. Cafeteria workers at Central Connecticut State University successfully defended their contract from cutbacks. Shelton public school cafeteria workers also have had a good contract for decades. The Whitsons company, recently brought in to manage the town’s cafeterias, is trying to increase its profits under the pretext of lowering the town’s budget. Whitsons is notorious for slashing wages and health-care benefits by breaking union contracts. Lawn signs supporting the cafeteria workers show broad support in the community.
Contained in these struggles is a message of hope for those outside organized labor trying to get in, and motivation for those already organized looking to build the labor movement in a time when most unions are taking concessions. There is good reason to hope for a resurgence of organized labor, as record numbers of young people look to join unions to improve their standard of living. Michelle Chen wrote in The Nation, “Nationwide in 2017, nearly 860,000 workers under age 35 got hired, and nearly a quarter of those were union jobs.”
Because strikes in the U.S. have been at an all-time low, the teachers’ strike in West Virginia is an important test. Their strike for better pay should inspire the labor movement to take a stand and reverse decades of retreat and class collaboration with the bosses. The victory of West Virginia teachers will strengthen and validate the fighting spirit and class struggle perspectives of Local 217. Hotel workers in Stamford recently took a photo to send their solidarity to West Virginia teachers.
In Stamford, workers know that solidarity is an important part of winning their contract negotiations and waging future battles to improve their living conditions under the exploitative capitalist system.
Photos by Socialist Action.