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Vol. 76/No. 32      August 27, 2012

On the Picket Line

Hotel workers in Quebec fight
bosses’ concession demands

MONTREAL—“We had a big crowd this morning. People went in and got people off the floors,” Glen Arseneault told the Militant, while picketing the Hilton Bonaventure downtown here Aug. 12. More than one-third of the 210 union members walked the line during the 12-hour strike. Locked-out hotel workers from the nearby Hyatt Regency came over to join in and enjoy a special brunch. Workers locked out by Holiday Inn Select Sinomonde since Aug. 5 also participated.

The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) representing 5,500 hotel workers across Quebec is currently conducting coordinated negotiations with management in 35 hotels.

On Aug. 9 the CSN announced that 108 union members at the hotel Château Cartier in Gatineau (near Ottawa) will be voting on a tentative agreement that reinforces protection against part-time work and loss of jobs to so-called green programs. Under these programs, management suggests that customers choose not to have their towels and sheets changed every day, for example, which is used to cut work hours and eliminate jobs, picketers told the Militant.

Maintaining full-time work positions and increasing employer contributions to pensions are two of the union’s central demands.

Donald Agostino, a porter/bellman, said that since the U.S. economic downturn tips have dropped from a daily average of about $70 to $20.

“We fought for eight years to get rid of four-hour split shifts. Now, they want to go back eight years. We can’t have that,” Agostino told the Militant.

“Before the strike we were all in a dog-eat-dog situation,” Jacob Gerow, a bar aide, told the Militant as he picketed the Hyatt Regency Aug. 8. “Now we are starting to know each other because we are all together in this fight.”

—Katy LeRougetel

Nursing home workers into 2nd
month of strike in Connecticut

STAMFORD, Conn.—“I never knew what the union was until I started working here,” Alicia Labrosciano told the Militant Aug. 12. She is one of some 700 nursing home workers on strike at five HealthBridge facilities around Connecticut. The strikers, members of Service Employees International Union District 1199, picket outside the Stamford Long Ridge nursing home every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Passing drivers often honk their horns in support of the striking workers, who include nurses, nurses’ assistants, laundry, dietary, housekeeping and other staff.

The strike began July 3 after the union rejected the company’s “last, best and final offer.” The bosses then broke off negotiations and unilaterally implemented their offer—cutting working hours by eliminating a paid lunch, slashing vacation and sick time, cutting pensions, and raising health premiums to $8,000 a year for many employees.

The nursing homes continue to operate with temporary workers.

“The union has resorted to calling a strike because it failed to pressure the affiliated Health Care Centers to accept unrealistic contract proposals any other way,” the company said in a press statement released the day the strike began.

—Harry D’Agostino

After monthlong strike, Houston
janitors ratify new contract

HOUSTON—Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1 voted unanimously Aug. 11 to ratify a contract that would increase most members’ wages by $1 over a four-year period.

About 400 janitors, among the 3,200 covered by the union contract, walked off their jobs July 10, striking seven Houston area cleaning contractors. The new agreement was negotiated with six of the seven companies that employ union janitors.

Guillermina Carreon, a union janitor, told the Militant that the fight continued at the seventh company. “Pritchard janitors are still in struggle. We’ll support them until they win,” he said.

The contract will increase workers’ pay from $8.35 to $9.35 an hour with raises of 25 cents per hour for each year of the contract. “We wanted $2 but we did get $1. That’s good,” SEIU member Edilia Bastardo explained. “What we did was very important, because we won something.”

“I think this is a step to establishing the union,” Antonio Vargas, a janitor for 12 years in the Houston area, said. “It wasn’t long ago that we were little better than slaves. I knew people fired for drinking water at work, and then the boss would pocket their pay and make us do the extra work. We still have a long way to go, but now, with the union, that is possible.”

Union representatives said they agreed to lower pay of $7.25 an hour for workers in smaller buildings of less than 200,000 square feet, the Houston Chronicle reported.

—Steve Warshell

Related articles:
Caterpillar strikers say,‘We have to take a stand’
Tens of thousands of autoworkers strike Hyundai in South Korea
W. Virginia Steelworkers strike against concessions
Labor rally in Philadelphia protests attacks on workers
Marx: ‘Trade Unions: Their Past, Present, and Future’
Why bosses ‘go after workers so hard’  
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