Victory at the Westin Providence!

Workers at the Westin Hotel in Providence have been fighting for respect from the hotel’s management for the past year, declaring a boycott in March 2010 in response to drastic slashes to wages, cuts in vacation and sick days, increases in health care contributions, and subcontracting. After a long, hard, fight, workers at the Westin now have a new, victorious union contract!!

From the Brown Daily Herald:

Last night the Westin Providence hotel and union workers of Unite Here Local 217, came to an agreement on a contract ending a labor dispute that started in March. At a press conference — which organizers held in both English and Spanish — workers rejoiced with cries of, “I have my job back!” and “Welcome back to the Westin!” …

Even with community help and the “perseverance” of employees, the struggle was full of “blood, sweat and tears,” said Audrie Ramsay, an employee of three years at the Westin and member of the union’s negotiations committee.

Ramsay was laid off in June 2009, along with many other employees, but she will be one of the 50 percent of workers to get their jobs back as part of the contract, she said.

The renegotiation of contracts between the union and the Westin happens every few years, but this one has been the most difficult, said Carmen Castillo, who has worked as a room attendant for 16 years and has served on the negotiations committee for 13 years.

In the past, the negotiations committee had worked with the state government rather than with the owners of the Westin, Castillo said. The committee found the owners harder to negotiate with.

When the Westin decreased wages in March, they also increased employees’ workload, according to Castillo. This increase in expected workload resulted in an increased number of back injuries and sparked worker frustration, Viveiros said.

Castillo, who received applause as she walked to the podium at the press conference, said this was a historic night for housekeeping. She said she felt “proud” of the new contract because of the economic and managerial pressure the workers were able to overcome.

SLA had supported the Westin workers by encouraging Brown University-affiliated events to respect the boycott, successfully relocating three events and eventually passing a successful pro-Westin boycott resolution at the Brown University Community Council.

For more details on the agreement, check out this ProJo article. This is a huge victory for workers in the Providence community, and Brown SLA is honored to have been part of their fight!


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