Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Wyndham Hotel Workers in Philadelphia Vote to Authorize Strike

After being called “essential” during the pandemic, another set of workers is being offered an insulting contract by management. In response, they are preparing to strike. They deserve the support of every union in Philadelphia.

Jason Koslowski

November 5, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Restaurant hotel workers and Unite Here representatives chanted, “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” at a vote of union members to authorize a strike outside the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia on October 28, 2021.
Image: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Union hotel workers are readying for a strike this month in chic Old City Philadelphia — potentially helping push Striketober into Strikevember. 

On October 29th, food and hospitality workers at the Wyndham Hotel organized in UNITE HERE Local 274 voted unanimously to authorize a strike.Pickets will start on Nov. 8 and 15, leading to a possible one day strike after that.

The Wyndham workers have been working without a contract for years. Management has been refusing to negotiate a new contract since 2019. More than this, since the pandemic hit, the staff at the Wyndham has been cut almost in half — from about 100 to 57. This has meant ramping up the workload of the remaining workers. 

After being called “essential employees” while working in a deadly pandemic — which so far has claimed 750,000 lives in the United States alone and five million globally — management’s offer to the workers is insulting at best. Servers would see a dollar more an hour. Bar tenders would see just a fifteen cent raise — and that would drop to a dime more in two months, increasing in tiny steps afterwards. 

The struggle at the Wyndham is far from alone. 

Tens of thousands of union workers across the United States are facing a similar battle — and going on strike to fight for what they know they deserve. At the Kellogg’s factory two hours away in Lancaster and at Kellogg’s factories across the country, as well as at several John Deere plants, workers are fighting back after working in a deadly pandemic and then being handed punishing hours and insulting offers from management. And in fact, the UAW union rank and file at John Deere — making up the biggest strike of Striketober — just voted down a second, woefully inadequate contract offer from the bosses. 

These strikes reflect something crucial: the leverage that workers have in the current situation. 

Workers always occupy the essential place in their workplaces and in the economy as a whole: we’re the ones who flip the burgers, drive the busses, serve the drinks, drive the cabs, and keep the production lines running. 

But this leverage has increased in recent months. Workers are in short supply in many sectors, while the bosses are eager to increase profit rates after the pandemic shutdowns. 

A strike by the Wyndham workers in this situation, in other words, would mean a strike when they have far more leverage than at any time in their ongoing contract negotiations so far. 

What’s more, a strike even by a small workforce like that at Wyndham would place these workers at the forefront of the worker struggle across Philadelphia — precisely because they’re fighting to improve conditions that large sections of Philly workers face too. Striking, and wringing real concessions from the bosses — not just a dime more an hour — would be a win for workers in Philly generally, showing what’s possible and how to fight for it. 

All of this suggests that it’s key to connect the brewing hotel strike to other workplaces — solidarity strikes and walkouts by other unions to coincide with and reinforce the potential strike at the Wyndham. That kind of real connection and solidarity would increase the power of the Wyndham strike by giving it muscle to affect the Philly economy more broadly — and with it, the pressure on the bosses to settle. It could empower worker struggles across the city, too — showing what militant action can do. And wider solidarity means bigger pickets that have a better chance of scaring off, or winning over, scabs. 

It is important now for the leaders of UNITE HERE in Philly to prepare solidarity actions — and they’re perfectly positioned to do it. The union represents 4,000 workers across the city, from the airport to other hotels. And Philly is a union city, with tens of thousands of union members in the PFT, AFSCME, and beyond. The SEPTA transit union itself is one of the most militant transit unions in the country: it has gone on strike more times than any other such union in the last few decades. 

The reality, though, is that it will take rank-and-file fighting from below — from the workers in UNITE HERE and beyond — to push the union in that direction. In recent years, union leaders avoid solidarity strikes like the plague. That’s in part because these types of strikes are illegal, and it’s in part because of the fear of upsetting Democratic Party “allies.” 

But the fact that those kinds of actions are illegal and that they terrify politicians — what better proof of their power? The fact is that when a strike is strong enough to win, it doesn’t have to worry about the law: it already has the leverage to make its power felt. And that kind of strike shows that labor law is just a tool to try to keep the working class from fighting back. 

In other words, building the strongest pickets and strikes possible will mean the self-organization of workers themselves — real, bottom up union democracy — to decide where, how, and how long to strike, and to reach out beyond union boundaries for the widest strike actions possible. 

Readying for a strike, UNITE HERE workers are also preparing to stand at the front lines of the labor movement here in Philly. It’s a struggle that deserves the fullest, and most militant, support of every union in the city. 

Facebook Twitter Share

Jason Koslowski

Jason is a contingent college teacher and union organizer who lives in Philadelphia.

Labor Movement

SEIU Local 500 marching for Palestine in Washington DC. (Photo: Purple Up for Palestine)

Dispatches from Labor Notes: Labor Activists are Uniting for Palestine. Democrats Want to Divide Them

On the first day of the Labor Notes conference, conference attendees held a pro-Palestine rally that was repressed by the local police. As attendees were arrested outside, Chicago Mayor — and Top Chicago Cop — Brandon Johnson spoke inside.

Left Voice

April 20, 2024
A tent encampment at Columbia University decorated with two signs that say "Liberated Zone" and "Gaza Solidarity Encampment"

Dispatches from Labor Notes 2024: Solidarity with Columbia Students Against Repression

The Labor Notes Conference this year takes place right after over 100 students were arrested at Columbia for protesting for Palestine. We must use this conference to build a strong campaign against the repression which will impact us all if it is allowed to stand.

Olivia Wood

April 20, 2024
NYPD officers load Pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia onto police buses

Student Workers of Columbia Union Call for Solidarity Against Repression and in Defense of the Right to Protest

In response to the suspensions and arrests of students at Columbia, the Student Workers of Columbia is circulating a call for solidarity against the repression. We re-publish their statement here and urge organizations, unions, and intellectuals to sign.

A group of protesters carry a banner that says "Labor Members for Palestine, Ceasefire Now!" on a Palestinian flag background

Labor Notes Must Call on Unions to Mobilize for Palestine on May Day

As the genocide in Gaza rages on, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has called on workers around the world to mobilize against the genocide on May 1. Labor Notes, one of the leading organizers of the U.S. labor movement, must heed this call and use their influence in the labor movement to call on unions to join the mobilization

Julia Wallace

April 18, 2024

MOST RECENT

Occupy Against the Occupation: Protest Camp in Front of Germany’s Parliament

Since Monday, April 8, pro-Palestinian activists have been braving Germany's bleak climate — both meteorological and political — to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza, and the unconditional German support for it. 

Alina Tatarova

April 20, 2024

Left Voice Magazine for April 2024 — Labor Notes Edition!

In this issue, we delve into the state and future of the labor movement today. We take a look at the prospects for Palestinian liberation through the lens of Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, and discuss the way that Amazon has created new conditions of exploitation and how workers across the world are fighting back.

Left Voice

April 20, 2024
Image: Joshua Briz/AP

All Eyes on Columbia: We Must Build a National Campaign to Defend the Right to Protest for Palestine

After suspending and evicting students and ordering the repression of a student occupation, Columbia University has become the ground zero for attacks against the pro-Palestine movement. What happens at Columbia in the coming days has implications for our basic democratic rights, such as the right to protest.

Maryam Alaniz

April 19, 2024

The New Labor Movement and the Need for Anti-Imperialist and Class Independent Politics

The rise of labor in the US has put the working class at the center of national politics. It deserves class-independent politics free of the capitalist constraints of the Democratic Party.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 19, 2024