Hotel Workers on Strike

Martin Sheen supports one-day strike of hotel workers in Toronto

On Friday September 10th, over 900 hotel workers at the Royal York in Toronto went on a one day strike.

“We decided to take a one day strike action to let the company know that we are willing to fight for our rights” Michelle Williams, a hotel worker at the Royal York, told BASICS.

The collective agreements at a number of hotels owned by Westmont, including the Royal York, have expired and the company is asking for more “flexibility”.

What does this flexibility mean to workers?

Workers “are being asked to perform a 4 hour shift, but they live an hour and a half away and they are having to pay day care to come to a 4 hour shift. It’s just not right”  says Lisa Bruno, a hotel worker at the Royal York.

Westmont wants to be able to call its workers in with 12 hour notice for as little as a 4 hour shift.

“It is hard for us to get a second job based on the fact we have to depend upon how we are scheduled here before we can commit ourselves to do another job. We don’t know how we will be scheduled tomorrow. Because of that we can’t commit ourselves to another job. That’s why we’re fighting for stable hours” says Michelle.

It’s not easy convincing your fellow workers to strike.

“This hotel hasn’t had a strike since 1951, so the people here were very scared to go on strike. But when they realized we weren’t going to get anything in our contract, they slowly decided that this is the place we need to be to fight for what we want.” Lisa told BASICS.

And the hotel workers at the Royal York are not alone.

Celebrities in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, such as Martin Sheen, joined the picket line, while other unions expressed their solidarity and other hotel workers, represented by UNITE HERE, joined in on the one day strike action.

“What I want to share with people is that we all understand what is going on in everybody’s life, people shouldn’t think that they are the only ones who have to struggle. It is a struggle for everyone and that’s one of the reasons we want to come out on the street.”

“We are all in this together, we are brothers and sisters and we will stick together!” says Michelle.

For more information visit UNITE HERE – uniteherecanada.org

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