UNITE HERE Local 75: Their fight is our fight

Workers with UNITE HERE Local 75 on the picket line in North York, Ontario. Photo by Stephen Ellis
Workers with UNITE HERE Local 75 on the picket line in North York, Ontario. Photo by Stephen Ellis

By Stephen Ellis

As they head into the seventh week of their strike and the weather turns cold, workers of UNITE HERE local 75 at the Holiday Inn on Norfinch Drive in North York, Ontario remain hot on the trail of a fair contract.

On Oct. 5, 2015 hospitality workers walked off the job to demand fair wages, benefits, job security and pensions. For more than 18 months workers have been without a contract. The Hamilton based Vrancor Group acquired the hotel two years ago and has continued to demand concessions from the union.

RankandFile.ca spoke with shop steward Veronica Cousins and maintenance manager, George Dickemous.

“We are out here because we are fighting for wages, better benefits, jobs security and pensions,” said Cousins. “We met with the owners a couple of months ago and they don’t want to move from their position. We wanted a 10.5 % wage increase and they won’t move from 6.3% – and that’s the reason we’re out here today. Last Thursday, we were at the bargaining table and the owner never even came into the room to negotiate with us.”

“They’re trying to get rid of the older people. And that matters to me because they are my friends. I have a lot of issues with that,” said Dickemous. “They’re trying to get rid of our benefits. They haven’t given us a raise in two years. That’s why we’re out here. We’re also out here for respect. We don’t get any respect in there.”

The Jane and Finch neighborhood has struggled for years against racism, poverty and low-paying jobs.

“Well for many people living here at Jane and Finch, this fight is important because we need better paying jobs. Another reason why we are fighting is because many of us are single mothers and fathers and we only get a little over 14 dollars per hour. Every hotel now is fighting and getting the 10.5 percent increase but we are not getting that, so that’s why we are out here fighting,” added Cousins.

“It’s important because when I leave this job, I hope someone from this neighborhood gets my job. There are no more jobs in this neighborhood anymore, for people who live around here,” said Dickemous.

According to Dickemous, solidarity is key to winning this fight. “I think when people finish work they can come out for an hour or so to help because we need more bodies here – that would help a lot.”

Since then workers from many unions have joined the picket line to show their solidarity. But more help is needed. Show your support by bringing your friends out to 30 Norfinch Drive and bring some hot coffee. Their fight is our fight.

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