Patrons at Washington DC’s Madison Hotel got an unusual wake-up call early on the morning of January 31 when more than fifty hotel workers gathered in front of the downtown hotel and urged them to "Check out!" The hotel, which has long been unionized, changed hands on January 19 and the new, Danish-based owners have refused to accept the terms of the existing contract with UNITE HERE Local 25, which represents 150 workers at the Madison.
"We showed up at work last week and the restaurant was closed," Jorge Fernandez said. Fernandez, an assistant server, had worked at Palette, the Madison’s restaurant, for seven years. "They said we could apply for other positions at the hotel but jobs are scarce right now," said Fernandez, bundled up against the early-morning cold as his fellow workers continued to picket and chant outside the hotel. "I have a family, kids in school to support; we had no warning that we’d lose our jobs."
All the hotel workers — many of whom have worked at the Madison for decades — were forced to re-apply for their jobs by the new owners, Local 25 spokesman Bradley Van Wauss said, while workloads were dramatically increased for the remaining workers. "We’ll continue the picketing as long as it takes," Van Wauss said, adding that the local is now urging a boycott of the Madison, which gets "over a million dollars a year in union business alone."
-excerpted report by Chris Garlock, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO