Justice for BC Hospitality Workers

Hilton Metrotown Workers' Militant Picket Demands Justice

Members of Unite Here! Local 40 organized a lively picket in front of the downtown headquarters of the Canadian Western Bank (CWB) on October 20. This bank has lent money to DSDL, the offshore corporation that owns the Hilton Metrotown hotel in Burnaby where workers have been locked out since April 15. The workers have been locked out since they organized a one day strike to demand the reinstatement of 97 workers who had been laid off, then terminated, during the pandemic. The response of the hotel was the lockout which has now continued for over six months.

At the start of the pandemic negotiations were underway between DSDL and Unite Here! Local 40 for the renewal of the collective agreement. To date DSDL has rebuffed all attempts by the union to conclude contract negotiations and to extend recall rights for workers laid off due to the pandemic.

Members of Local 40 assembled at the Burrard Skytrain Station at 3:00 pm, before marching across the street and taking position on one side of the CWB building. Union leaflets explaining their position and copies of Workers' Forum articles reporting on the hotel workers' actions were distributed. Drummers provided the beat, as some members banged on pots, while about 75 people walked, danced and marched up and down the sidewalk, wearing red signs saying Locked Out, and chanting slogans like No Justice, No Peace! Two members of the union carried a large banner saying Justice for Hotel Workers! and a large sign Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All! drew many positive comments.

Besides hotel workers there were members of other unions including the BC General Employees' Union and the Hospital Employees' Union. There was a contingent of workers on strike at Ledcor and other members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Vancouver City councillor Jean Swanson and other supporters also joined in.

DSDL's Ongoing Refusal to Negotiate

In September the union and Hospitality Industrial Relations reached agreement on a new collective agreement and recall rights extended to the end of the pandemic for over a thousand workers in hotels throughout BC. Hilton Metrotown is one of 10 hotels in the province where no contract settlement or agreement on recall rights has yet been reached.

As part of its work to inform the public about their struggle and the criminal activities of DSDL, the union organized a picket at the office of the Canadian Western Bank (CWB) in Vancouver, calling on the bank not to do business with DSDL.

Kevin Malone, a representative of Unite Here! said "the bargaining team is heading into negotiations, and hopes to have results by the weekend. We have sent letters and made many calls to the DSDL asking them politely to end the lockout and rehire the 97 workers, but they have refused to respond." By exposing the criminal past of their employer, he said, and urging the CWB not to do business with this corporation, the union and its members are hitting them in the only place that matters to them. He pointed out that it is a situation of "a rich corporation (the bank) giving money to another rich corporation at the expense of the hotel workers, and it is unacceptable."

He pointed out that much of the money that the CWB is lending to DSDL and other such companies comes from pension funds of unions. This will be an avenue that the union will follow up on, he said, to stop pension funds of union members being invested in such corporations. "We will be back" he said, and "we will have pickets at all the branches of CWB until they agree to drop DSDL." The crowd chanted "We will be back. We will be back!" for several minutes.

A New Direction for the Economy is Needed

In their struggle the workers at the Hilton Metrotown are standing up to not just one corporation but the international financial oligarchy of which DSDL is a part. The international financial oligarchy operates on the basis of paying the rich and on fraud, all at the expense of the working people. The struggle of the Hilton Hotel workers makes this clear for all to see, as do similar struggles of public sector and industrial workers. It is not just one company or corporation that is bad or shady, because they are all interconnected and based on maximum profit at any cost.

Workers Forum wishes the members of Unite Here! success in their upcoming negotiations with DSDL to end the lockout and rehire the 97 terminated workers, and to safeguard decent wages and working conditions for their members. It is evident that the direction of the economy (and those directing it) need to change so that the economy benefits the society and people, and not the insatiable demands of corporate owners. The hotel workers are not backing down and in defending their rights they are defending the rights of all working people.

(Photos: WF, UNITE HERE 40)

This article was published in

October 25, 2021 - No. 99

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