The folks at Netroots Nation and RIFuture.org have done a great job of shining the spotlight on a labor dispute we are facing locally in Providence -- the outcome of which will directly decide whether the Netroots Nation conference will bring approximately $2 million in economic activity to our area in 2011.
As a progressive elected official who's worked with the hotel workers and other service employees across the city and state for nearly a decade, I want to do my part to increase the pressure on behalf of workers. (As co-founder of local progressive blog ProvidenceDailyDose.com, I also look forward to welcoming progressives from around the nation to Providence.)
First, a summary of the situation faced by workers of the Providence Westin hotel, as described by RIFuture.org:
* Management imposed a 20 percent wage cut
* Management unilaterally quadrupled employee health insurance costs
* Management threatened to replace workers with subcontracted labor like the controversial "Hyatt 100" decision in Boston
* Management fired three workers in retaliation for joining a picket line (they were later reinstated four months later - after the NLRB became involved)
* Management broke off contract talks with the hotel workers.
All of this even though the hotel was built with public money, as part of a publicly-subsidized downtown mall/convention center complex.
The hotel management's actions have compelled a local boycott of the Westin, and progressives have exerted smart leverage in this fight. Nolan Treadway, political director of Netroots Nation, writes about their choice of venue for 2011:
We're ready to commit to Providence, but we will only do so if we know the workers are getting a fair shake - and for us that means working under a collectively bargained contract that the employees vote to accept.
Today, I'm teaming up with Netroots Nation, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and RIFuture.org on this petition to hotel management:
Westin management's decision to slash salaries, increase health care costs, and undermine unions is wrong. Providence and the Westin could benefit greatly from the Netroots Nation convention, but the workers should be able to share in those benefits. Management has the power to resolve this dispute, and should give providence-area workers a fair deal.
After you sign, you will also be given a phone number to call -- and a sample script.
$2 million is just the immediate pay-off our state would get from the Netroots Nation conference. Providence has a burgeoning tech and online community, and as we look to brand ourselves as a tech-savvy city, it's difficult to think of a bigger opportunity that could have fallen into our lap.
Please support the effort to win this fight for workers -- and the state of Rhode Island -- here.
We'll keep you updated as things develop.