On the Picket Line

‘We are fighting for respect,’ say Montreal hotel strikers

By Philippe Tessier
October 25, 2021

MONTREAL — To the sound of loud cheers and music, Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) strikers from the Hilton hotel in Quebec City joined DoubleTree hotel pickets here Oct. 5. The joint action by the workers was called in response to management shutting down the DoubleTree four days earlier after the union took the bosses to court for using scab labor.

“I’ve been out of work since the beginning of the pandemic,” striker Helker Flores, who has been preparing banquets for 10 years at the DoubleTree, told this Militant worker-correspondent. The old contract says management can bring in new workers once union members are out of work for two years. “I’m all out of unemployment pay and other benefits, but I don’t want to go back under their conditions.”

“We are fighting for respect,” explained striker Valerie Guillemette, who has worked at the hotel bar for almost seven years. “They are using the pandemic to get rid of those with years of seniority. They hire people from restaurants, where there are practically no unions. They think they can mold them easily, that they are docile. But seeing the number of new workers on the picket line, I can tell you the atmosphere will be different when we go back in.

“We have people from Bali, Brazil, Algeria, Vietnam and we share our cultures on the line,” she said.

“I was hired at the DoubleTree eight years ago in house cleaning,” said Maria Ochoa. “I was working for cleaning agencies before, where there are no unions. It is a lot better with a union. We can defend the right of workers.”

Two people joined the action at the DoubleTree after meeting Communist League campaigners at their door during the previous week. “It is my first picket line and I like it. I think all workers should be in a union,” said Mehari Neqassi, who arrived in Canada three years ago from Eritrea and who has been working in a nonunion warehouse.

Negotiations are under way in hotels across Quebec unionized by the CSN. Hotel workers in seven union locals have accepted a contract that includes protection against permanent job losses due to pandemic closings, and a raise of 8% over four years. About 20 locals are still negotiating and two are on strike — at the DoubleTree and the Quebec City Hilton.

There have been a number of other strike actions, including a six-day strike at Quality Hotel and Suites in Sherbrooke ending in victory Sept. 29.

Send solidarity messages to infofc@csn.qc.ca and checks to CSN, 1601 De Lorimier Ave., Montreal, QC H2K 4M5, Canada.