Hyatt Workers Lead Town Hall Meeting in Indianapolis
September 12, 2012
In Indianapolis, a city with some of the lowest paid hotel workers in the nation, the fight for good jobs and an end to abuses in the hospitality industry has only just begun. That was the message of the workers at a town hall meeting last week. On August 30, Hyatt and other hospitality workers led the meeting to speak about their victories and struggles in standing up and organizing in Indianapolis.
Speaking to a packed room of 75 community members, allies and other workers, a panel of five workers shared their stories. Elvia Bahena, a former subcontracted Hyatt housekeeper told of being fired two weeks after speaking out about subcontracting abuses and blacklisting in the Indianapolis hotel industry. After cleaning hotels in downtown Indianapolis for over 10 years, she was let go after testifying to the Indianapolis City Council in favor of the “Freedom to Work” ordinance that would improve working conditions in the hotel industry.
“I am proud of the work I do, but I’ve experienced abuses that I had to speak out about,” Elvia said. “I used to work at the Hyatt, through a subcontractor who pays us poverty wages and refuse to give us health insurance, sick days, or other basic benefits.”
In addition to hotel workers like Elvia Bahena, there were two recently unionized airport and university cafeteria workers on the panel who offered hope for positive change in the workplace. Food service workers at both the airport and a local university have succeeded in organizing and recently won their first contracts. In addition to earning better wages and benefits, airport worker Sharon Benson said now that she has a union she is “treated with respect” at work.
At the end of the meeting, workers called on community leaders in Indianapolis to sign a citywide pledge to support workers organizing to achieve justice in the workplace in Indianapolis.