A housekeeper at the Hilton hotel for nearly thirteen years, Susana Ramirez found herself out of work after being injured this spring. Under pressure to work faster, Ramirez had slipped and injured her head while she was cleaning a bathroom at the hotel. She is currently unable to work and she can no longer walk without using a cane. Stories like hers are not accidents. They arise from greedy employers that demand that workers carry heavy workloads like the one Ramirez was given that day.
The Procaccianti Group, owner of the Hilton and Renaissance hotels in Providence, is a corporation dedicated to maximizing their profits at the cost of their workers’ health. At the Hilton hotel, workers are expected to clean anywhere from 17 to 23 rooms in one shift, where unionized hotels in Providence only allow around 14 to 15 rooms per shift. This disregard for workers’ safety and well-being manifests in severe amounts of on-job injuries like Ramirez’s. At the Hilton, the rate for work-related injuries and illness among hotel workers in 2013 was 69% higher than the national average. Hilton employees have sought a fair process to decide upon unionization without intimidation, but management has consistently proven that it does not respect its workers. Several worker leaders at the hotel have been fired, and other employees have faced intimidation for speaking up.
On Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, Brown Student Labor Alliance passed a resolution through the Brown University Community Council (BUCC) urging to have University event planning bodies refrain from holding events at the Hilton, and to stop recommending the Hilton hotel through its publications. Although the BUCC voted in majority favor of this resolution, we cannot hope for University administration to follow through in making sure that Brown is not patronizing the Hilton.
At the same time, Renaissance Hotel workers have recently filed a petition to the National Labor Relations Board to unionize. An election date had been set for Thursday, November 12th, 2015 for that process. Even though the workers are expected to win this election for a union, it does not guarantee that contract negotiations will go smoothly. For this reason, it is crucial that workers maintain their strength against Procaccianti Group management as they enter another chapter of their fight for a union. We urge readers to support the boycott and not patronize these hotels until the disputes are settled.
We hold the Procaccianti Group and the Providence Hilton Hotel managers accountable for denying their workers the respect and humanity they deserve. We urge students of the Brown community to stand in solidarity with the Hilton hotel workers in their call for a boycott, and with Renaissance hotel workers in the upcoming election to unionize, their victory rally, and the process of negotiations.
Given the University’s position of power and the power that students and their families hold in this community, supporting the efforts of hotel workers can have a widespread effect on the lives of these workers. We have never been able to rely on the apathetic efforts of our Administration alone to enact change. This time is no different. Therefore as students, we have a responsibility promote the rights and humanity of workers in Providence. As Susana Ramirez stated at a rally for Hilton hotel workers, “We are not machines, we are human beings.”
Brown Student Labor Alliance