Unifor welcoming hotel workers

Unifor is welcoming hundreds of hotel workers from across Toronto and Mississauga who are making the decision to leave their U.S. union, UNITE HERE, and preserve their autonomy and workers’ democratic rights as part of Unifor. “Unifor will not stand by and allow the heavy-handed tactics of American unions to continue to trample on the rights of Canadian workers,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. The American union of UNITE HERE organized a takeover of its Canadian unit Local 75 that represents hotel and food service workers throughout the GTA. UNITE HERE removed the local’s elected officers, fired the staff, removed longtime shop stewards and workplace leaders, seized its assets and placed the local into trusteeship after a dispute over democratic rights and the right of the local to set its own course, including defining bargaining priorities for Local 75 members. This past December, the American-based union instructed all staff across North America that anyone assisting Local 75 in fending off the trusteeship would be terminated, and that any local that provided assistance to the local would have all international resources stripped from them immediately. This happened despite the fact that members voted overwhelmingly on three occasions in the largest membership meetings in the history of the local to oppose any effort by the American-based union to trustee the local. "It is clear that the kind of movement Local 75 workers have been building among hospitality workers no longer has a home within UNITE HERE," said Lis Pimentel in a release from the group leading the effort. Pimentel resigned as president of Local 75 on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, and signed a Unifor membership card the next day. “We could not allow our members to enter into bargaining under control of the American union. Canadian workers need people at the table who appreciate and understand their concerns," she said. The collective agreements for about 4,600 Local 75 members expire on January 31, putting the workplaces in what is referred to as an open period when they can vote to switch unions. A vote to change their union affiliation will be triggered when a majority of members sign Unifor cards. "Local 75 has a well-earned reputation for fighting for the rights of its members and improving the lives of workers across the hospitality industry," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. "It is humbling to our union that such a progressive and grass-roots run local would come to us. I look forward to having these workers join our efforts to defend working people." Unifor represents more than 10,000 hospitality and 9,000 gaming sector workers across Canada, many at the same hotel chains where Local 75 represents workers.