Hospitality workers with UNITE HERE Local 7 staged a militant demonstration on June 21, just weeks after announcing publicly that they will be taking on management and corporate owners at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, near the Inner Harbor. The demonstration drew approximately 200 workers and allies in support of this courageous and historic bottom-up effort to organize hotel hospitality workers in Baltimore for the first time in over 30 years.
Standing with Hyatt workers were representatives from the Federation of Public Employees Local 4883, Ironworkers Local 16, United Workers and other activists who gathered for a rally at McKeldin Square under the slogan “End 3/5 in Baltimore!” As part of the national Hyatt Hurts campaign, members of Local 7 came out to expose the Hyatt Regency for paying its workers 3/5 of what union hotel workers make in other cities while charging the same rates to customers. In addition to fighting low wages, Hyatt workers at the rally spoke out against verbal abuse from management, layoffs, understaffing and the subcontracting of hotel jobs.
“Today we have 25 temps to nine housekeepers, and that’s not right,” said Denise Sidbury, a Hyatt housekeeper. “When we speak about the temps—they really get dogged—the temps get paid $8 an hour, maybe less than that … no benefits and they can’t even take a day off. … It’s just not fair, they say we're a family but then they treat us different and it creates conflict between the employees. I say to the Hyatt today no more 3/5, let's all be equal.”
Demonstrators made the historical analogy of 3/5 pay to the “three-fifths compromise” of 1787, when the U.S. Constitution considered enslaved African Americans to be counted as 3/5 of a human being to determine political representation. The racist “compromise” was overturned as a direct result of the Civil War when the Union Army, including 180,000 Black soldiers who joined the ranks to struggle for freedom and equality, crushed the Confederacy—which ultimately put an end to chattel slavery.
It was with the same determination that the Hyatt workers vowed to fight for the right to bargain collectively with management and earn living wages and benefits for all workers in the city’s hospitality industry.
After the rally, protesters marched down Light Street towards the hotel with “Hyatt Hurts” placards in hand, militantly chanting: “Hyatt workers are under attack! What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” As everyone arrived at the Hyatt, a large picket line was formed across the entire main entrance of the hotel with chants becoming increasingly louder for all to hear.
This demonstration marked just the beginning of a protracted labor struggle against the inhumane practices of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore and its executives who wield their powers granted to them under the capitalist system to exploit workers and reap super-profits.
Another demonstration will be held on July 26 to bring forth the workers’ demands. For more information, call UNITE HERE Local 7 at 443-438-5607.