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LOCAL News :: Activism : Baltimore MD : Labor : Protest Activity

February 27th UNITE-HERE! Picket and Demonstration reportback

A brief reportback on the February 27th City Center Sheraton UNITE-HERE! picket and demonstration for adequate rights, job security, decent wages, and affordable health care.
Yesterday afternoon in the biting cold at roughly 4:30pm people began to gather at the City Center Sheraton hotel on 101 W. Fayette St to Picket and demand decent and just wages, conditions and health care for the workers. The hotel owned by Bill Yung and Columbia Sussex who also owns and operates 67 hotels and 14 casinos, is under a boycott declared by it's own workers affiliated with Local 7 of UNITE-HERE!. Columbia Sussex has ignored and neglected it's previous recognition of the Unions collective bargaining agreement when it bought the hotel 2 years ago by Omni. Since the purchase of the hotel by Columbia Sussex the workers have faced layoffs, increased work loads, pay cuts, unaffordable health care and insecurity.

Not even the stinging cold of the wind could freeze or silence the energy and spirit of the 50 or so people gathered. The group consisted of Worker/ Leaders, Community Supporters and Allies, Students, Children and Passerby's. Chants from the bullhorns and noise makers overpowered the mid afternoon traffic and strong winds. The sheer noise coupled with the images of black and yellow signs reading “ Boycott City Center Sheraton – B-More United!” and the red and black signs of UNITE-HERE! “Hotel Workers Rising! Lifting one another above the poverty line” evoked sensations of fire and energy to frozen, numb limbs as well as shooting a strong message to Columbia Sussex. At one point a theatrical scene arose with the Worker/ Leaders and a man with an over sized paper machete head, dollar sign eyes, vampire teeth and a top hat reading “Columbia Sussex”. The tug of war match they fought resulted in dancing smiling workers.

The picket also included speeches by Student Allies, other labor Unions in solidarity, and Worker/ Leaders. They spoke about the situation that workers and community members are facing not only in Baltimore but all over and highlighted the importance of the struggles that the workers are facing at the City Center Sheraton. The Hospitality industry is the fastest growing industry in Baltimore among other major cities, and is the second largest in Baltimore. The workers within this industry are becoming more and more the backbone that enables tourism and hospitality to thrive. The struggles at the City Center Sheraton represent the trend and direction that many current workers are existing in and the future that many will face. Increase in workloads, decrease in wages, the slashing of health care and the overall general insecurity and precarity that workers in this service and hospitality industry face are some of the key points that the Sheraton workers are combating.

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