Monday, August 13, 2007

Marching with Local 40

By Gary Jarvis
On Friday afternoon I joined the members of Local 40 as part of the Hotel Workers Rising campaign. As a keen supporter of the hotel workers union local I was delighted to join the march and rally as a marshall. On arriving at the Vancouver Art Gallery I quickly got to work on sorting out the Hotel Workers Rising banner with fellow activists. This done there was a quick briefing by the lead marshall.

About thirty hotel workers assembled next the Olympic countdown clock and we were joined by several NDP provincial politicians and sisters and brothers from other unions including CAW and HEU. We left the square and marched north to the first of several stops at hotels in the downtown core of Vancouver. We rallied at the hotel chanting "what do we want?" - "contract", "when do we want it?" - "now." Soon after we were joined by about fifty more workers from a nearby hotel and ten minutes after that by another fifty. Each time new workers arrived with their 'hotel workers rising' flag poles they joined their already marching comrades. It was an impressive site.

We later marched to the Hyatt on Burrard turning in the direction of the hotel front doors. We filed past noisily and went down beneath the hotel via the underground parking to make a loop of the hotel before heading back to the Art Gallery and only after making a circuit of another hotel's parking area. It must have been eerie for hotel management to see this many disgruntled employees mobilized and ready to act on their grievances.

Back at the Art Gallery, John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here's hospitality division addressed Local 40 members. Then Beth Marshall, a server at the Hyatt for more than twenty years, told us that on retirement she can expect to receive a pension of just seventy dollars a month. This was just one example. Worker after worker got up to air their anguish at the now corporate nature of the hotels, so different from years gone by, when local operators owned and ran the hotels and treated their employees more fairly. Hyatt, Renaissance et al better sit up and take note otherwise the struggle for justice will intensify.

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