Unite Here! March and Food Drive For Baltimore Hotel Workers - By Ron Kipling Williams

Unite Here! March and Food Drive For Baltimore Hotel Workers - By Ron Kipling Williams


“In the hotel industry these are the jobs that are going to set a standard. We need to keep those jobs intact and that’s what these workers are fighting for, not just at the Sheraton but hotel workers all across Baltimore."

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On Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm there will be a march and food drive for Baltimore Hotel Workers at War Memorial Plaza, located at Holiday and Lexington Streets in front of City Hall.

The workers at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel have been forced by Columbia Sussex to work without a contract since April 2006.This has resulted in the increase of employees’ workloads, increased health care costs, the elimination of key employee rights (which include seniority, effectively cutting out job security), and the insistence of management retaining the right to contract out workers’ jobs.

“We want Columbia Sussex to settle a contract to the workers’ satisfaction,” said Carrie Sallgren, Unite Here! Baltimore boycott organizer.

“The hotel industry is the second largest and fastest growing industry in the city, and the jobs that are getting created right now are going to be the ones my generation is going to have to do in the next ten years,” said a young Unite Here! boycott committee member.

Unite Here! is an international union that was formed in 2004. Their Hotel Workers Rising Campaign was launched in February 2006 to bring equality to the men and women in the service industry – cooks, cleaners, and hotel servers throughout North America. “If we want decent wages, decent health care, and respect and dignity for ourselves in the future, then young people today need to support the struggles of hotel workers now,” said Dalto.

The boycott was officially launched in November 2007. They have engendered allies such as Red Emmas and the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP, as well as several Central Labor Council union organization members in Baltimore City. It is estimated that the actions of Unite Here! have resulted in the loss of $2.2 million in revenue for the Sheraton City Center, with a number of organizations canceling their events. Baltimore Black Pride, Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, the Career Communications Annual Black Engineers of the Year Award, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, the Democratic National Committee National Convention, and the United Way are among those who pulled out.

Bill Yung, CEO of Columbia Sussex, has repeatedly said in public that he will not sign a union contract. This summer he reneged on his word when he signed a contract with the Unite Here! Workers Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel.

According to Carrie Sallgren, one worker said when he landed a job at the Sheraton that he thought he was in heaven because of pension plan, manageable workload, decent wage, and job security.

“In the hotel industry these are the jobs that are going to set a standard. We need to keep those jobs intact and that’s what these workers are fighting for, not just at the Sheraton but hotel workers all across Baltimore,” said Sallgren.

Unite Here! is asking participants to bring canned goods for their holiday food drive to support the Sheraton Baltimore City Central Hotel Workers. “My vision for Baltimore does not include union-busting companies. We will stick through this boycott one day longer than they will and we will win.”

For more information and to get involved, contact Unite Here! Mid-Atlantic Region at 410-659-2191 ext. 12.