Peter Ward’s Letter to Trump Taj Mahal Strikers

NYHTC – July 14, 2016 

To the Taj Mahal strikers and all the members of Local 54 Unite Here,

When I learned that the strike at the Taj Mahal was imminent, I contacted your President, Bob McDevitt, and offered to come to Atlantic City with a team of staff and members from my union to help out when you launched your picket line. It is clear to us that your fight is our fight, and that if Carl Icahn is permitted to eliminate your hard-earned health benefits, other greedy employers of the same ilk will try to do the same thing.

As we walked the picket line with you, we have been deeply inspired by your unity, courage and determination. You should all be very proud, and the members and staff of my union are honored simply to be at your side. I have no doubt that Local 54 is going to win this strike and preserve its excellent contract. Please know that for the duration of this struggle, the 35,000 members of the Hotel Trades Council will remain with you, 100%.

In Solidarity,

Peter Ward

President

Hotel Trades Council

THIS WEEK’S Hotel Voice

Remembering the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the U.S. observes this week the annual holiday in honor of the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we should not forget the ties between Dr. King and labor unions. In fact, when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, he was in that city in support of striking members of the sanitation workers’ union.

The ties between Dr. King and organized labor are well documented. U.S. labor unions—including our own—joined with Dr. King in pushing for enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Our union was proud to work with Dr. King. Both Local 6 and the Hotel Trades Council provided him and his movement with financial contributions and other resources beginning with his earliest days at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And all of us can be proud of the facts that Dr. King twice received Local 6’s Civil Rights Award and that the Hotel Trades Council was the first union in the nation to negotiate a paid holiday for its members in observance of his memory.

As we observe the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth and the accomplishments of his life, it is appropriate to recall the beauty of his vision and the eloquence with which he advocated it. Here is one example. Speaking about American life in the later part of the 19th Century and the earlier part of the 20th Century, Dr. King noted that workers in those times had no rights and no respect, saying, “They lived a life that was socially submerged and barren.” Dr. King then added, in words powerful enough to resonate today, “The inspiring answer to this intolerable and dehumanizing existence was economic organization through trade unions.”

Dr. King also recognized that unions played a crucial role in advancing workers of all races, creeds and ethnicities. He said, “African Americans read the history of labor and find it mirrors our own existence. We know that if we are not simultaneously organizing our strength we have no means to move forward.”

Reverend King later took that thought a step further, saying that any attack on unions was an attack on everyone “Our needs are identical with organized labor’s needs—decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and conditions in which families can grow, have education for our children and respect in our community. The duality of interests of labor and ourselves makes any crisis which lacerates unions a crisis from which we, too, bleed.”

There are other areas besides civil rights where Dr. King’s opinions were groundbreaking and inspiring. In 1965 he began to publicly express doubts about the Vietnam War. Two years later, in an April 4, 1967 appearance here in New York City, he spoke out strongly against our country’s involvement in the war. He even associated the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” Dr. King said.

By 1967 the work of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two historic pieces of legislation that improved our country immensely. Dr. King then concentrated on fighting for the working poor in the U.S. Our Union participated in his Poor People’s Campaign, busing members to Washington D.C. to join in the legendary demonstrations associated with that drive. Although different phrasing was used at the time, the purpose of the Poor People’s Campaign was to draw attention to the gross income disparity in the United States; in other words, the growing wealth of the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent.

Recalling the life of Dr. King reminds us that our union’s fight for social justice is as old as the Hotel Trades Council itself. Here is a look back at this 76-year-old continuing story.

And you will find an historic look at our union’s involvement with the civil rights movement here.

Considering that we are a country that is still struggling with income inequality, where women earn 25 percent less than men in the same jobs, where unions are under attack in states like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, where massive defense spending continues to take away money from domestic programs to help the poor, the elderly and the sick, and where 12 million undocumented workers live in fear in the shadows of the American mainstream, we should all remember that the greatest tribute we can pay to Dr. King’s memory is to maintain his dream and carry on his work.


“That we were a small part of it will go into the history of our union,” the Hotel Voice wrote of HTC’s participation in the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington. Five railroad cars and many busloads of HTC members, as well as the Union’s top leadership, headed to Washington, D.C. for the March, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Our members rejoiced in what has since been remembered as the most famous event of the Civil Rights Era, but also re-committed themselves to fighting for social, racial, and economic justice. “I am over 50 years old and this was the most wonderful day in my life,” said Lillian Herndon of the Waldorf-Astoria. “It was beautiful,” added David Brothers, night chef at the Sea Isle Motel and member of the Local 6 Civil Rights Committee. “Dr. King’s speech, and Mahalia Jackson’s song just before it, added fire to the fire we felt. Our fight is going forward.” That fire is still burning as we fight for justice and equality in 2016. 

70 years ago today, on July 20, 1946, the cover article of the Hotel and Club Voice detailed a “truly historic” meeting of 6,000 Hotel Trades Council members in an “unmistakable fighting mood.” In what was at the time the largest meeting of hotel workers, the members made plans to fight for something we now take as a given—a 40-hour, 5-day workweek. One week later, a “final and binding” decision was made: the workers won one of “the biggest victor[ies] of our union.” 70 years later and we’re still in a fighting mood—standing up for justice, respect, and dignity for all of New York’s hotel and gaming workers.


In 1985, HTC members at over 50 hotels went on strike, in the first strike in the union’s 46 year history. Thousands of our members put their jobs on the line for 28 days, for the sake of a chance at a better life. 31 years later and we continue to fight for the same things: the dignity, respect, and quality of life New York’s hotel workers deserve. 

The 1963 March on Washington is one of the most celebrated moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Organized by a coalition of civil rights organizations and progressive unions, the march brought over 200,000 people from around the country to support the passage of civil rights legislation. The march is perhaps best known for Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, and is widely credited with contributing to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As part of the union’s long-standing commitment to civil rights, the NY Hotel Trades Council organized a delegation of 360 members and officials to represent the union in the march. Union officials attending included Local 6 President Charles Martin, Secretary-Treasurer James Marley, Recording Secretary Armando Betances, and then-Business Agent and later Hotel Trades Council President Vito Pitta. Local 6 had sent delegations to previous civil rights marches in Washington, D.C., most notably the May 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom.
The union’s participation in the march was reported in the September 1963 issue of the Hotel and Club Voice magazine:

 
The Freedom March: Local 6 Was There

There was never before anything like it in Washington.
If you were there you saw 210,000 Americans marching in peace through their capital city, singing, clapping, listening. You saw they were there for a purpose, that they were determined to carry a message through. The signs and the songs said the same thing. Freedom. Freedom Now. And you saw that prominent among them were our own Local 6 people, saying and singing the same thing and living out the constitution of their union.
Five Pennsylvania Railroad cars carried our union members into Union Station the morning of August 28. On that warm but beautiful day in Washington, it was evident from the start that those who expected violence were to be bitterly disappointed. Never had so many people come to petition their government with so much restraint and dignity.
For Local 6 members it was a high point in a long list of civil rights efforts. In every department, members gave from their own pockets that a few from their number should go. Seats on the train were limited, but contributions rolled in long after it was known that not all who contributed could participate. With this knowledge with them, 360 weary but proud Local 6 members brightened up, hoisted high the union signs and began the historic march along Constitution Avenue.
Blessed with cool seats under shade trees, our Local 6 marchers listened to rousing folk songs by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and the great Odetta, and classic spirituals by Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson. The speeches followed, and with them the soaring words of Martin Luther King. He spoke of a dream, “a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” To those who could remember back to a proud night in Gertrude Lane Auditorium in June of 1962, the words were familiar. In response to the presentation of our second Civil Rights Award to him, Martin Luther King revealed to us his hope:
“What we are trying to accomplish is an American dream, as yet unfulfilled, a dream expressed in these sublime words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ . . . The dignity and merit of the human personality is the great dream of America. Now more than ever before America is challenged to realize this dream.”
The August 28 Freedom March was undoubtedly one of the most successful volunteer efforts ever undertaken by the union. Local 6 was one of the city’s first unions to begin preparations. Immediately upon the approval of the Civil Rights committee, chaired by General Organizer Betty Benz, collection sheets were drawn up and officers and delegates began the drive for funds. Within the space of a few weeks, almost $6,000 had been collected, and our participation in the march was a certainty. Reservations were secured for five Pennsylvania Railroad cars on a special train, one of 30 leaving from New York City. 360 Local 6 members boarded the train at 7:25 on the morning of the 28th.
Leading the local’s delegation were President Charles J. Martin, Secretary Treasurer James Marley, Recording Secretary Armando Betances; Vice Presidents Randolph Hagan, Domenick Menick, Vangel Kamaras, Betty Smith, Al Szymanski; Business Agents Louis Saulnier, Nettie Wiley, Joseph Bracero, Vito Pitta, Lubos Pavlista, Alberta Porter, Ralph Mandrew, David Hooko and Arcadio Arcos. Education Director Betty Ziff, who worked full time for weeks on the march, was on hand with other members of the Local 6 staff.
The enthusiasm and generosity of the members in the shops, who gave to further the success of the march, combined with the great demand for and limitation of transportation space resulted in a surplus of approximately $1,750. On the approval of the Local’s Executive Board, $250 of this will go to the James Merideth Education Fund and $500 to Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The remaining $1,000 will be used in future efforts to further the cause of civil rights.
Tributes to the overwhelming success of the march, and Local 6’s participation in it, came freely as members looked back on the day during the long ride home. Dick Weber, Local 6 member from the Golden Gate, said he was happy that the union not only encouraged members to go, but played a big part in organizing the trip and in participating. Charles Alford, from the New Yorker, said, “This is a tremendous experience in my life. For years I have been concerned with the civil rights issue in my community and in the union. Now we’ve all done something about it.”
Charlotte Judah, of the Manhattan Neighborhood Service Council, called the march “a great show of brotherhood.” Erie Cooper, also of the MNSC, predicted that, “Whatever some politicians may say, Congress won’t be able to ignore this tremendous demonstration when it takes up President Kennedy’s civil rights bill.”

THIS WEEK’S Hotel Voice
Remembering the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the U.S. observes this week the annual holiday in honor of the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we should not forget the ties between Dr. King and labor unions. In fact, when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, he was in that city in support of striking members of the sanitation workers’ union.

The ties between Dr. King and organized labor are well documented. U.S. labor unions—including our own—joined with Dr. King in pushing for enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Our union was proud to work with Dr. King. Both Local 6 and the Hotel Trades Council provided him and his movement with financial contributions and other resources beginning with his earliest days at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And all of us can be proud of the facts that Dr. King twice received Local 6’s Civil Rights Award and that the Hotel Trades Council was the first union in the nation to negotiate a paid holiday for its members in observance of his memory.

As we observe the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth and the accomplishments of his life, it is appropriate to recall the beauty of his vision and the eloquence with which he advocated it. Here is one example. Speaking about American life in the later part of the 19th Century and the earlier part of the 20th Century, Dr. King noted that workers in those times had no rights and no respect, saying, “They lived a life that was socially submerged and barren.” Dr. King then added, in words powerful enough to resonate today, “The inspiring answer to this intolerable and dehumanizing existence was economic organization through trade unions.”

Dr. King also recognized that unions played a crucial role in advancing workers of all races, creeds and ethnicities. He said, “African Americans read the history of labor and find it mirrors our own existence. We know that if we are not simultaneously organizing our strength we have no means to move forward.”

Reverend King later took that thought a step further, saying that any attack on unions was an attack on everyone “Our needs are identical with organized labor’s needs—decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and conditions in which families can grow, have education for our children and respect in our community. The duality of interests of labor and ourselves makes any crisis which lacerates unions a crisis from which we, too, bleed.”

There are other areas besides civil rights where Dr. King’s opinions were groundbreaking and inspiring. In 1965 he began to publicly express doubts about the Vietnam War. Two years later, in an April 4, 1967 appearance here in New York City, he spoke out strongly against our country’s involvement in the war. He even associated the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” Dr. King said.

By 1967 the work of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two historic pieces of legislation that improved our country immensely. Dr. King then concentrated on fighting for the working poor in the U.S. Our Union participated in his Poor People’s Campaign, busing members to Washington D.C. to join in the legendary demonstrations associated with that drive. Although different phrasing was used at the time, the purpose of the Poor People’s Campaign was to draw attention to the gross income disparity in the United States; in other words, the growing wealth of the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent.

Recalling the life of Dr. King reminds us that our union’s fight for social justice is as old as the Hotel Trades Council itself. Here is a look back at this 76-year-old continuing story.

And you will find an historic look at our union’s involvement with the civil rights movement here.

Considering that we are a country that is still struggling with income inequality, where women earn 25 percent less than men in the same jobs, where unions are under attack in states like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, where massive defense spending continues to take away money from domestic programs to help the poor, the elderly and the sick, and where 12 million undocumented workers live in fear in the shadows of the American mainstream, we should all remember that the greatest tribute we can pay to Dr. King’s memory is to maintain his dream and carry on his work.

HOTELS BAN VERIZON SCABS

Verizon strikebreakers have been thrown out of three New York City hotels thanks to direct action by striking CWA members, solidarity from the hotel workers’ union and Teamsters Local 814. 

Taj Mahal Solidarty

Verizon Solidarity


When CWA members found out that Verizon was dispatching strikebreakers out of midtown hotels, the strikers got busy.

The strikers mounted massive picket lines in front of the Sheraton, Renaissance and Westin hotels in Manhattan’s midtown.

The Teamster Local 814 mascot—Scabby the inflatable rat—joined the strikers on the picket line.

The New York Hotel Trades Council backed the strikers too and promised to honor their picket lines.

The hotels cancelled Verizon’s rooms and tossed the strikebreakers to the curb.
NEW YORK UNION – AMERICA’S UNION