By ERNIE GOTTA
— STAMFORD, Conn. — Hilton Hotel workers here will lose their access to health care on June 30. Three years ago, workers won an impressive union election 110 to 5. In the middle of the COVID crisis, Atrium hospitality is opening an attack on the health and wellbeing of employees. The attack is, for all intents and purposes, an attempt to get rid of the union.
Workers are already deeply concerned about working in a hotel that would put them in direct contact with guests who could be carrying COVID-19. Now those who are not returning have lost access to their health care and are wondering what they’re going to do if they get sick. There is already a myriad of health issues facing these workers from years of lifting heavy mattresses, carrying serving trays, illnesses acquired through the years, or the stress of working multiple jobs because in hospitality, especially without a union, one job is not enough.
Hilton workers are not the only hotel workers facing this crisis. Workers at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, Conn., are also facing a loss of health care. At the Sheraton Stamford Hotel, workers had their health care cut at the end of March but had time to apply for the state-covered “Husky” program, which is far better than the too pricey COBRA or “Obamacare” plans. At the non-union hotels, the situation is even worse. Workers have lower wages, terrible health care, and no way of speaking up against the bosses’ abuse.
As we reported in a recent article, hotel workers are organizing their fightback. Actions to demand safety, health care, and relief for hotel workers are being organized weekly. They are not alone. Other sectors of the working class, like teachers, are organizing a fightback too.
Teachers in Stamford are facing big cuts totaling $15 million. The majority of these cuts will likely fall on teachers and resources, making a situation in which fewer teachers work with less. If anything, students and teachers will need more resources to overcome the challenges faced by distanced learning and physical distancing when students return to the classroom. The city government is giving teachers a further slap in the face by investing a $14 million city surplus in capital gains projects. If there has been any doubt about whom the mayor and his cronies work for, that question has been answered.
Stamford is a city that houses some of the wealthiest companies in the world. Henkel, Deloitte, Indeed, WWE, and many more all have corporate offices here and utilize the Black, Latino, and immigrant service sector that struggles to afford to live in the city. Politicians like Mayor Martin and Jim Himes have paid lip service to the Black Lives Matter movement but have done nothing concrete to prove that they care about communities of color in Stamford. The corporations are running the city, and the politicians are guilty of ramming their corporate agenda of austerity down the throats of the most vulnerable.
At the same time corporate elites and politicians have a great deal of fear when they watch a sea of young people and workers march down the street, mobilized at their door steps, and demanding justice. The politicians try to maneuver and push these movements toward manageable avenues. They try to tie up activists in endless meetings with city commissions or meetings with the police chief that make mediocre promises but never resolve anything.
The power of hotel workers, teachers, and the Movement for Black Lives is in the streets. If all of these groups link up, march together, and raise their demands as one voice, they can shake the corrupt and racist foundations of our society.
Discussions about building political parties are unfolding on social media every day. Suggestions range from a Black Lives Matter Party, to reestablishing the Black Panther Party, to a labor party. All of these ideas for political projects, depending on their program and composition, are potentially viable starting points for building the type of working-class-based revolutionary party we need to fundamentally end the exploitation of workers and the oppressed communities.
A movement of deep solidarity and commitment to seeing political change independent of the Democratic Party is needed now. The Democratic Party has proven again and again to be the defenders of this current system of exploitation.