Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Connecticut Hotel Workers Fight Corporate Reopening

Hotel workers across Connecticut are protesting the state’s reopening measures, which endanger workers’ health and livelihoods in the middle of the ongoing pandemic. Members of Local 217 Unite Here delivered a set of demands to the governor’s office in Hartford this week to say they won’t risk their lives to protect hotel owners’ profits.

Ernie Gotta

June 18, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share

Hotel workers in Local 217 Unite Here led a car caravan to the state capitol on Tuesday, June 16. They filled Hartford with the sound of honking horns on their way to deliver Governor Ned Lamont a series of demands around the reopening of the economy. The action was organized in opposition to what they feel is a state reopening that only serves the interests of hotel owners.

Phase one of the governor’s reopening was marred by the opposition of small business owners. Barbershop and salon owners declared reopening was not safe for them or their customers. Lamont was forced to push back the reopening from May 20 to June 17. Hotel workers are hoping to have a similar effect on the governor. They delivered a petition signed by hundreds hotel workers across the state with demands that included mandated hazard pay, recognition that hotel employees are frontline workers, no challenges to unemployment applications, guaranteed health coverage during a layoff, keeping workers on the recall list for two years, and the endorsement of a relief fund for undocumented workers.

The union made it clear that these demands extended to all hotel workers and not just the five union shops currently organized by Local 217.

Lupe Agrado is furloughed. She’s a 21-year banquet server and shop steward at the Hilton in Stamford. She attended the rally and said, “I am worried that my job is never going to be the same, we will be exposed to the virus, and our lives are at risk. It messes with you mentally. I’m upset that the company is taking advantage of the pandemic. They treat us Latino and Black workers so low. It’s always Black and Latino workers risking their lives for the company’s benefit. The hotel owners are selfish and careless towards workers. We have no guarantees. We have no safety. We have to keep struggling.”

Leading up to the action, Local 217 released a powerful Op Ed in the New Haven Register that linked the hotel workers’ fight for a safe and just reopening with the ongoing Black Lives Matter struggle against police brutality. Sandra Walton, a Hartford Hilton room attendant, wrote, “The death and devastation wrought by COVID-19 in black and brown neighborhoods in the past three months has been punctuated by the racist murders of black individuals. It hurts more to know it did not have to be this way. It was not chance that allowed COVID-19 to disproportionately devastate black and brown communities. It was the inaction of people in power.

“Now, Gov. Lamont faces a choice. He goes on TV and says black lives matter. Workers of color are calling on him to protect us and protect our communities. Will he step up, the way we have when we’ve been called on as front-line workers? Or will he follow his friends in the hotel industry and hedge funds and allow a new wave of devastation of communities of color?”

It seems like Sandra’s message should have been an explicit part of the action on Tuesday. It’s a message that would have found its way to thousands of young students and workers who are marching every day against police brutality.

In general, the broader labor movement should be preparing today for the larger fight ahead. Union bus drivers, hotel workers, janitors, and health-care workers have all rallied separately in the past few weeks. A joint mass action of these unions would send shivers down the spine of any owner/operator trying to maximize their profits at the expense of worker health and safety. Actions connected with the fight against police brutality could usher in a new level of resistance to the ruling capitalist elite who use the police and austerity to oppress working people and minority communities.

Rank-and-file members of these unions can make this happen by pushing their coworkers to extend solidarity beyond the borders of the shop-floor fight, demanding joint actions with other unions fighting austerity, and demanding that union leadership mobilize in solidarity with the movement against police brutality.

Hotel workers expressed their fears and anger during Tuesday’s action. Ines, a seven-year Hilton room attendant and shop steward said, “If we get sick we’re going to make our families sick. And we can carry the virus without knowing and make our community sick. We demand protections.”

Similarly, Arturo Velasquez, a front-desk agent at the Stamford Sheraton, said, “We don’t know if the conditions are suitable or safe when we return back to work.”

Beyond the fear of what the future holds is an indomitable spirit characteristic of Local 217’s past cafeteria and hotel fights. Pumping up the crowd, Dieuseul Degraff, a cook and shop steward at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, declared, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

This scrappy local could set an important example for the labor movement by leading a dynamic and visionary fight against the coming wave of austerity. Yesterday’s actions sent a clear message that Connecticut hotel workers are angry with their current situation and that they are going to fight both the governor and the hotel bosses to win their demands.

This article was originally published in Socialist Resurgence.

Facebook Twitter Share

Guest Posts

Women’s Liberation in Revolutionary Russia

The historian Wendy Z. Goldman gave this talk in Madrid and Barcelona on September 12 and 15, presenting her book Women, the State, and Revolution.

Wendy Z. Goldman

October 1, 2023

“Angry, Terrified, and Excited”: A CUNY Adjunct Approaches A New Semester During Contract Bargaining

Adjuncts at CUNY are heading back to work without a new contract. One of these workers reflects on the poor conditions they will return to and their excitement to organize with their union for a better CUNY.

Red Labor Slate members running for NPC election in DSA 2023.

Red Labor’s 2023 Convention Slate: Toward an Independent, Working-Class Socialist Party and Programmatic Regroupment

The upcoming DSA National Convention is occurring at a crossroads for the organization. The Red Labor slate is running on a program of building an independent, working-class socialist political party.

Aaron Liu

July 27, 2023

Modi’s Far Right and Regional Crises Fuel Violence in Manipur, India

The conflict between the Kuki and Meitei ethnic groups in Manipur, India has led to displacements and deaths. Workers and struggling people from oppressed nationalities must unite against the warmongering bourgeois Indian state.


July 27, 2023


The UAW Strike Is the Most Important in Decades

One of the most ambitious and combative labor struggles in decades, the UAW strike reflects the growing power of the U.S. working class in a period of increasing political crisis.

Daniel Alfonso

October 2, 2023
Socialist presidential candidate Miriam Bregman at Argentina's presidential debates.

At Argentina’s Presidential Debate, Far-Right Milei Got Slapped Down by Socialist Bregman

On Sunday, five candidates in Argentina's presidential elections faced off on live TV. Socialist Myriam Bregman showed that far-right economist Javier Milei, who won a surprise victory in the primaries, was no "libertarian lion" — he's a "cuddly kitten of the rich and powerful."

Nathaniel Flakin

October 2, 2023

Left Voice Magazine: Special Issue on Our Congress

In July, Left Voice held its first congress. As part of this special issue of our magazine, we are publishing two documents that formed the basis of the discussions, as well as an substantive and rousing greeting from Leticia Parks, a Black revolutionary socialist from Brazil. We also include an appeal for Climate Leninism, a debate with Tempest, and a talk about women’s liberation in revolutionary Russia.

Left Voice

October 1, 2023

Notes on the International Situation

A Convulsive New Phase of the Crisis of Neoliberalism — A Document for the Left Voice Congress

Left Voice

October 1, 2023