Philly hotel workers begin strike, call for better wages and working conditions

Nearly 60 workers at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District began a strike on Sunday, demanding better wages and working conditions.

“Our bodies are deteriorating because of hard work,” said Evelyn Rivera, 43, a housekeeper at the hotel in the Old Town.

Unite Here Local 274 who work as maids, cooks, laundry and lobby staff began the strike with a sit-in outside the hotel on Fourth and Arch Streets at 4:30 a.m., members said, and by mid-afternoon more than two dozen marchers had marched and chanted. on the sidewalk. They held signs that read “Black Lives Matter! Black Labor Matters!” The union said the majority of the workers were black, brown, or immigrant.

“While we respect the right of employees to strike, we are disappointed that Unite here has chosen this path,” a statement from Wyndham Hotel & Resort said. “The hotel is open and operating, and we have taken measures to help ensure that guests are not affected.”

A hotel spokesperson declined to reveal the total number of employees at the hotel, or the number of guests it serves annually.

Unite Here members have said they are ready to remain on strike until a new contract agreement is reached. A company spokesperson said it will replace those that expired on September 30, 2019.

The hotel strike comes amid a period of nationwide unrest for workers seeking better wages and working conditions. In an October Washington Post article, 178 employers went on strike this year. The Post article reported that the large number of people leaving their jobs, along with disruptions in the supply chain, gave workers new leverage to demand better wages and conditions from their employers.

Drivers for Gopuff’s delivery service, including some in Philadelphia, planned a 24-hour strike on Tuesday.

» Read more: Using ‘Gopuff Yourself’ slogan, company drivers plan 24-hour strike over wages

Workers said the dispute at the Wyndham hotel relates to wages that are not in line with other hotels in the city, and heavy workloads.

“We have been trying for two years to get a fair living wage in our contract,” said Monica Burks, 60.

Union members said the standard rate for hotel housekeeping is $18 an hour, but Wyndham pays less.

Rivera, the housekeeper, said she earns $15 an hour after working at the hotel for more than two years. “I’m taking care of three kids and my grandfather is into that, and it just isn’t enough,” she said.

Cleaning 14 rooms in a shift, and as many as 16 on busy days is very difficult.

“When I get home, my feet are so swollen, my feet hurt, and my wrists hurt, that I have to take Motrin almost every day,” said Renee Holmes, 51.

She said that cleaning one of the hotel’s 360 rooms after a guest leaves involves changing bedding, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and mopping the furniture. The number of rooms assigned to an eight-hour shift leaves only half an hour for all those tasks in each room. Work can be more in a room where guests sleep in both beds.

»Read more: Workers have a new psyche. They tell their bosses they’ve got it.

The workers said the task that could be managed would be 10 shift rooms.

City Council member Helen Jim, speaking to the strikers on Sunday afternoon, noted that $100 billion in federal bailout money has been earmarked to support the hotel industry. She said the money was intended to keep workers employed and pay a living wage. The hotel is located in one of the richest parts of the city, Jim said, and the people who serve his customers should get a portion of that wealth.

“There is no wealth unless there is wealth for everyone,” she said. “There is no prosperity, unless it is prosperity for all.”

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