UNITE HERE targets Columbia Sussex

April 2, 2010

WASHINGTON--Nearly 100 workers, organizers and union supporters gathered in front of the Westin Washington D.C. City Center to protest the hotel's union bashing policies on March 25.

UNITE HERE, which represents many hotel workers in the D.C.-Baltimore region, organized he demonstration. On the same day, UNITE HERE announced it would extend its boycott of four unionized hotels owned by the notorious union-busting Columbia Sussex Corporation to include four more non-union hotels owned by the company, including the D.C. Westin.

Columbia Sussex has tried to subvert union contracts at local hotels in Arlington, Va., and Baltimore. The Westin in D.C. is currently nonunion, and management is hostile to workers' attempts to organize. According to one Westin worker who stood at a distance from the demonstration fearing for her job, the company has begun showing anti-union videos to all its employees.

Demonstrators chanted "Boycott this hotel!" and "Don't check in, check out!" Throughout the picket, drivers honked in solidarity with the workers as they passed.

Many of the picketers were workers at the Sheraton Hotel in Baltimore, owned by Columbia Sussex, who have been fighting Columbia Sussex for years and are still in contract negations. Workers described cuts to benefits, layoffs, forced overtime and having one worker perform a job that two or three workers used to do.

Speakers at the rally included workers from Baltimore, several union officials and Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO. Williams pointed to a faded and torn D.C. flag hanging in the front of the hotel and said it symbolized the contempt that Columbia Sussex held for the people of D.C. He said he wouldn't rest until there was justice for the workers at the hotel.

As the rally ended, it was clear this was just the beginning of the fight against Columbia Sussex. UNITE HERE pledged to continue the boycott and the demonstrations, and a worker at the Westin said that union organizing would continue there. Demonstrators chanted, "We'll be back!"

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