Hundreds of UNITE HERE Local 26 workers and allies picketed outside the Omni Providence Friday evening to bring attention to their fight for a new contract that includes fair wages, reasonable workloads and affordable health care. The worker’s last contract expired January 31, 2018.
Local community groups joined the action in support, including members of the Providence Student Union, Teamsters Local 251, Rhode Island Labor Council, Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, the Providence Democratic Socialists of America and the Brown Student Labor Alliance.
Elected officials included Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Rhode Island State Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick), Rhode Island State representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) and Providence City Councilmembers Seth Yurdin (Ward 1), Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), and Luis Aponte (Ward 10).
Candidates for elected office included candidate for Governor Matt Brown, candidate for Lieutenant Governor Aaron Regunberg, candidate for Mayor of Providence Robert DeRobbio, Scandidate for state senate district 5 Sam Bell, candidate for state senate district 7 Shannon Donahue, candidate for state senate district 22 Melanie DuPont, candidate for state representative ward 4 Rebecca Kislak and Providence City Council candidates Jason Roias (Ward 4), Aaron Jaenig (Ward 5), Deya Garcia (Ward 8), Cyd McKenna (Ward 13) and Rachel Miller (Ward 13).
Below are video and pictures from the picket, starting with Unite Here organizer Jonah Zinn.
“Paying for health insurance for my entire family is too expensive,” said Chris Cook, a 20-year veteran in purchasing and receiving and Executive Board member of UNITE HERE Local 26 says. “Every year, I take home less money because of rising health care costs. I have coworkers that go without seeing a doctor because they can’t afford it. That’s not right.”
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Jonah Zinn again.
“I am proud to march with you and stand with you for the fair contract you deserve,” said Aaron Regunberg, who secured the endorsement from Unite Here in his race for Lieutenant Governor. “Every worker here deserves affordable health insurance. Every worker here deserves a safe workload. Every worker here deserves a living, decent wage for the difficult and noble work that you take on each and every day.”
“Some of get health insurance, the majority of us don’t, and that’s a necissity we all [don’t] have,” said hotel banquet worker Edwin Mertus. “We have to choose between paying a bill, or paying out mortgage.”
Those gathered “are here to support the Omni workers for affordable health care, reasonable workloads, and a wage that allows them to live in the State of Rhode Island with dignity,” said Unite Here Local 26 director Nancy Iadeluca. “Without your hard work, these industries could not reap the profits that they so desperately covet.”
“Cleaning hotel rooms is not an easy job,” said Carmen Castillo, Providence City Councilmember since 2011 and housekeeper for over 23 years. “I know I am not the only housekeeper here who deals with chronic pain. We are looking for workloads that respect our bodies and quality, affordable health care so we can get the treatment we need for such a physically demanding job. We make this hotel run because of our hard work. We deserve a contract that values all our effort.”
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