On Wednesday evening, hundreds of hotel workers from across the Twin Cities gathered to march through the streets of downtown Minneapolis to push for strong union contracts. The hotel workers, organized with the Twin Cities Hospitality Union UNITE HERE Local 17, stressed the need for a reduced workload, improved workplace safety policy, and better pay.
“I’m fighting for fair wages and respect,” said Jorge Quizhpi, who has been a cook at the Crowne Plaza Northstar for over 15 years. “Most of us have worked here for many years, and we have left our youth in these hotels. It would be nice if the employers would see that and appreciate what we do. Cooks, we have burns, cuts, all those things. Housekeeping works with chemicals. We need a contract that makes us safe in the workplace, and fair pay so we can pay our bills and feed our families.”
UNITE HERE members are majority female and majority immigrants, predominantly working in housekeeping, food service, facilities, and banquets. There are 19 unionized hotels in the Twin Cities, employing more than 2,000 people. The union contracts at all 19 expire this year or early 2020.
“I’m fighting for better pay,” said Hamdi Farah, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Hilton for 14 years. “My pay is not enough to pay to my bills. My days here are stressful. I do hard work, sometimes fifteen room checkouts a day. But after I pay my bills there’s nothing left, I still have to give up things my family needs.”
Dozens of other unions and community groups marched alongside the hotel workers to show support, as did elected officials.
Local 17 has begun negotiations with several of the hotels whose contracts expire first, and negotiations will continue throughout the year. Earlier this month, housekeepers marched in delegations to their hotel negotiations to deliver hundreds of petitions signed by hotel workers demanding a fair contract.
“If we don’t demand better salaries, corporations will never give you what’s fair. I’ve worked in hotel food and beverage for 14 years, and there’s not a case I’ve heard of where you work hard and your boss gives you a raise just because you deserve it,” said Jose Maquin, who works in room service at the Hotel Ivy. “This march, this demonstration, that’s how we’re going to fight that. By having all of us together.”