Crowne Plaza Hotel

By Brian Erway

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--Nearly 100 people rallied in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on March 1 in support of hotel workers seeking to organize a union.

The action was called by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), which for two years has attempted to get hotel management to agree to a set of community standards allowing employees a fair process for deciding whether they want union representation. There are currently no unionized hotels in the entire city.

The Crowne Plaza has accepted over $5 million of public money in loans and tax breaks presumably for "creating jobs," but many of their positions pay below the federal poverty rate. The company's health insurance is so costly that many workers rely instead on state-funded programs.

Speaking at the rally, Father Lawrence Tracy condemned "the scandal of working poverty in the city of Rochester--poverty that will continue to grow unless workers are free to organize themselves."

Two days before the rally, management called employees together to present their interpretation of National Labor Relations Board procedures. At that meeting, management referred to clergy members as "puppets of the union."

But union activists refused to be intimidated, according to UNITE HERE organizer Valerie Mangan: "They called out the management on its bias, saying 'you keep talking about the union being a third party, but it's not. The national organization is just a resource for us; but the union is actually us, the workers in this hotel.'"

At the rally, CLUE announced a boycott of the Crowne Plaza to pressure the hotel toward an approach that is fair to the workers.