For immediate release
September 12, 2017
Hospitality Workers Walk the Red Carpet for Labour Law Reform During TIFF
Hundreds of union and non-union hospitality workers and their supporters march to Soho House Toronto, a Toronto International Film Festival hotspot, hold street theatre-style “red carpet” action to highlight need for labour law reforms
Toronto, ON – September 12, 2017. This afternoon, hundreds of union and non-union hospitality workers held a march and street theatre-style “red carpet” action in front of the Soho House Toronto, a TIFF hotspot, drawing attention to the urgent need for employment and labour law reform in the province. Workers paraded on a red carpet in front of the club, as they were encouraged and supported by speakers including OFL President Chris Buckley and Toronto & York Region Labour Council President John Cartwright.
Today’s action began at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel, located in the Rogers Centre, where hotel workers voted last year to join UNITE HERE Local 75. Since then, workers have been fighting to win a first union contract. Unfortunately, the operator of the property, Larco Hospitality, has so far failed to agree to the same standard union contract achieved at numerous other unionized downtown hotels, including at two other Larco-operated hotels.
“Our union colleagues at the Renaissance deserve the same union contract the rest of us have across the city,” said Chris Koehler, a chef at the Larco-operated Marriott Bloor Yorkville. “It’s time for Larco to settle – we’re all Larco workers, and it’s only right we all have the same fair contract.”
“Even Trump gave us a fair first contract when we organized that hotel in 2015. What’s wrong with Larco?” said Lis Pimentel, President of UNITE HERE Local 75.
The group then marched across downtown Toronto to the Soho House Toronto, an exclusive private members’ club where workers held a union vote earlier this summer. Despite a high level of early support, the vote was ultimately unsuccessful, and the union has alleged the employer engaged in an anti-union campaign that intimidated workers and eroded union support. The employer is currently facing complaints at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
“We’ve felt intimidated and threatened at the Soho,” said Ernesto Espinoza, a worker at the club. “If we had the same card-check unionization process they have in the building trades, we’d already have won our union by now. It’s time for Premier Wynne’s government to do the right thing and make it more fair for workers in the hospitality sector, most of whom are immigrants and people of colour, to join a union. We deserve card-check now.”
Earlier in the day, with the help of MPP Peter Tabuns, representatives from UNITE HERE Local 75, including a member working at the Rogers Centre, delegated Premier Wynne’s office at Queen’s Park. There they delivered a petition signed by over three hundred Rogers Centre workers, most of whom are young people and first generation Canadians, calling on the provincial government to close the loophole in labour law that allows for contract flipping by sub-contracted food service companies. In addition, the Local 75 representatives submitted a letter from workers at the Soho House Toronto, asking the Premier for a meeting to discuss the need for more fairness in the unionization process.
UNITE HERE Local 75 represents over 8,000 hospitality workers across the Greater Toronto Area.