TORONTO, Feb. 8, 2018 /CNW/ - After months of increasing tension within UNITE HERE and its now trusteed Toronto-based affiliate, Local 75, over 800 hotel workers voted to leave their old U.S.-based UNITE HERE union behind.
Workers at Courtyard Marriott, Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Westin Prince and Delta Toronto Airport are among the first UNITE HERE members who have joined Unifor, the largest private-sector union in Canada, a move that makes Unifor also the largest representative for hotel workers in the country.
"This is a new day for hotel workers in Toronto. We were already strong; now we're strong and free," said Lis Pimentel, a leader who helped move workers to the Canadian union. "We will be able to be even more ambitious and more successful in our new union, and workers will have more control over their own future in a more democratic organization."
Ignoring three successive membership votes wherein union members overwhelmingly supported Local 75's former leadership and program and rejected trusteeship, the U.S.-based UNITE HERE strong-armed Local 75 into an improper trusteeship on January 6, 2018. UNITE HERE sent dozens of American organizers to Toronto, broke into the union office, disrupted membership meetings, seized member assets, and colluded with the employers to threaten and intimidate workers in the lead up to the votes. Still, despite UNITE HERE's campaign of fear, misinformation, intimidation and personal attacks, the exodus of hotel workers from UNITE HERE in Canada has begun.
"We're just glad workers finally had the chance to vote, despite UNITE HERE's best efforts to ignore our members' democratic voices," said Pimentel. "And we're awaiting the results of three more votes, where UNITE HERE had the ballot boxes sealed on a technicality. There are also labour board proceedings regarding UNITE HERE's employer collusion for at least one hotel. It's just this kind of heavy-handed, anti-democratic attitude that's motivating workers to make the move."
"We have been – and will continue to be - one of the most active, progressive and successful union Locals in Toronto," said Andrea Henry, a worker from the Westin Prince. "We've organized new members, won amazing contracts, contributed to Ontario's labour law reform, helped the Fight for $15 and Fairness, and won strong regulations to protect Toronto's rental housing market from being eroded by companies like Airbnb. Imagine what more we can do as a part of Canada's biggest private-sector union."
In addition to the members who have already moved to Unifor, at least 200 other UNITE HERE Local 75 workers have held votes to leave the trusteed local. Workers at the mid-town Howard Johnson recently voted to decertify the union, as did workers at the University of Toronto's Chestnut Residence. With other recent closures taken into account, Local 75 is estimated to have shrunk significantly to 6,500 members.
SOURCE Unifor Local 7575
For further information: please contact Unifor Local 7575's Thorben Wieditz at [email protected] or (647) 409-8997.