R. Jeanette Martin
The mounting luxury of hotels comes at a high cost to overloaded workers.
Framed in little display win.dows at the Royal York are "green" suggestions like purchasing "carbon offsets" to make up for your jet-setting, and "Ask yourself if you really do need sheets and towels changed every day."
And while you're vacuuming your own big carbon footprints off the carpet, you'll have time to think about the value of all the service employees everywhere who smooth your way.
The fact is, while manufacturing jobs bite the dust, the service sector is growing, and there's only one way to make sure these jobs are decent and worthy of Toronto's self-concept as a classy city: a little employee action.
Enter Local 75 of UNITE HERE and its Hotel Workers Rising campaign.
Last Friday, August 1, the union signed a tentative agreement with the Royal York, but here we are the day before on a march to the hotel, nicely timed for the start of Caribana weekend.
Over 80 per cent of hotel staff are new Canadians, and marchers are carrying signs saying, "We are the majority.'' The union can provide interviews in Tagalog, Cantonese, Portuguese, Tamil and other languages.
Photo By R. Jeanette Martin
It's an exhilarating troop down Bay, chants and drumbeats filling the air. The shout from someone in the back of a cab - "Go work!" - is ironic - like what have they been doing all this time?
An increasing emphasis on luxury in hotel rooms has placed more pressure on cleaners in particular. Suites, says the union, aren't allotted extra cleaning time. And modern mattresses are the massive size expected by the kings and queens who make up the guest class.
On July 30, UNITE won a new contract for workers at the Airport Radisson and Holiday Inn after lunch-hour walkouts that served up a message to management, accompanied by the beating of plastic-pail drums and the rallying call of a trumpet.
That agreement decreases the quota of rooms to be cleaned per worker and includes benefits for part-time workers.
As well, it's slated to expire in 2010 - the magic date the union is insisting on for all contracts involving the 6,600 hotel workers it represents in the GTA. Can you spell leverage?
Karen Dublin, a rally speaker and a room attendant for 15 years at the Sheraton Centre, faces the Royal York, this "symbol of power and prosperity. None of us," she says, "earn what we deserve - enough to live on." She calls this a "summer of hope."