Donald Trump’s new luxury hotel in downtown Washington continues to attract the masses. If only they were looking for rooms.
As the real estate developer cut the ribbon at a grand opening ceremony inside the hotel Wednesday, anti-Trump protesters assembled outside its doors to denounce the Republican presidential nominee and call for a boycott of his properties. Trump called the grand opening a “metaphor” ― and indeed it was, though not the kind he imagined.
With less than two weeks before the election, Trump, slipping ever further in the polls, burned a precious few hours promoting his new hotel in a city with just three electoral votes that inevitably go to the Democrat on the ballot. The ceremony wasn’t a campaign event so much as another free advertisement for Trump properties.
But outside, the potential long-term damage to Trump’s brand was on full display.
“My family, before they never would have thought about whether they [should stay] at a Trump hotel,” said Deanna Cordova, a 34-year-old New Mexico native who joined the protest. “Now, it’s just boycotting anything that’s Trump related.”
Though it attracted Trump haters of all stripes, the D.C. picket line was a formal affair organized by local labor unions, stemming from a dispute in Las Vegas. Service workers at Trump’s hotel there voted for a union last year, but Trump and his partner have so far refused to bargain with the workers over a first contract, earning rebukes from federal regulators.
Unite Here, the national union representing the workers, has called for boycotting various Trump properties around the country until the Republican nominee comes to the bargaining table. The AFL-CIO labor federation, which includes 55 unions representing 12.5 million workers, is expected to endorse the boycott, which would discourage union workers and their allies from patronizing certain Trump hotels and golf courses.
Joshua Armstead, a 25-year-old Unite Here member who works in a cafeteria at Georgetown University, said he would feel “queasy” about staying at a Trump hotel.
“If you want to be president of the United States, and you want to make America great again, you as an employer have an obligation to sit down with your employees who’ve done the most American thing possible. They have come together as a group and said we want to bargain collectively, work together to make our workplace better,” Armstead said. “If he refuses to do that, he has no business being president of the United States.”
As it turns out, Trump may have already inflicted more pain on his hotels than any organized labor boycott could. The candidate’s inflammatory campaign and endless insults have polarized the nation, and to paraphrase a line attributed (perhaps wrongly) to Michael Jordan, Democrats stay in hotels, too.
The new Trump hotel in D.C. ― a crown jewel of his line, occupying the storied Old Post Office Pavilion ― has reportedly had to drop its rates in order to fill beds. (The hotel’s manager has denied that it is struggling.) Bloomberg reported that Trump even plans to launch a new hotel venture that won’t bear his divisive name. Anecdotally, at least, many travelers are shying away from Trump properties after a campaign in which the nominee has insulted too many demographics to keep up with.
Some of those groups were represented outside the D.C. hotel on Wednesday. Nancy Groth, who was in a motorized wheelchair, said she was motivated to protest Trump’s new venture in large part because of his mockery of a reporter with a disability. (Last year, Trump mimicked The New York Times’ Serge Kovaleski, who has limited mobility of his arms.)
“I’m here as a disabled American,” Groth said. “Everyone was offended [by Trump’s mockery]. This is the tip of a very ugly iceberg. Of course, over the last year, Mr. Trump has revealed more and more pieces of that really ugly, dirty iceberg. ... When he puts his name on a historic building on America’s main street, he mocks all of us.”
Not everyone on Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday was unwilling to stay at Trump properties. Dean Cox, 70, was sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat outside the hotel, on his second visit to the nation’s capital. Cox said he’s been an unwavering Trump booster ever since he announced his candidacy last year.
“Everything is falling apart, our jobs are going overseas everywhere. I said, ‘Donald J. Trump is the answer,’” said Cox, who lives in Modesto, California.
As for the protesters outside the hotel, “They need to reevaluate themselves and look at the issues that [Trump is] really supporting,” Cox went on. “He’s not against one race, he wants equal race quality for everybody. It’s so clear. He wants jobs for those people. Jobs, that’s what America needs.”
So was Cox, as a fervent supporter of Donald Trump, staying at the new Trump International Hotel?
“No, we’re staying out in Alexandria,” he said.