A small strike at the Plaza Hotel in Toronto was recently settled, beating back significant concessions.
Thirty-five members of the United Steelworkers were forced out on strike by an owner who was attempting to slash kitchen staff wages by five dollars an hour, room attendant wages by one dollar an hour, and to gut the collective agreement.
The workers turned down the offer by a significant majority and the union started a strong campaign to fight back against management. Weekly rallies were held and organizations such as the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour and Unite Here held solidarity actions. Teachers’ unions and others who had used the hotel meeting rooms met with the owner, expressing their support for the striking workers.
A call-in campaign was initiated and leafleting was done on numerous occasions at the owner’s home as well as at a chicken farm owned by a family member who has a financial interest in the business.
As the strike was entering its thirteenth week, fifty Steelworkers from other workplaces went into the lobby of the hotel, chanting and leafleting and calling for a just contract. A woman activist from the Steelworkers was assaulted; her nose was broken and she received a concussion. Two days later a tentative agreement was reached with all concessions off the table and with a small wage increase.
The primarily women workforce, many from racialized communities, gained confidence through the work stoppage. They marched in the Labour Day Parade, took courses on "Workers’ Rights and Your Union", and wore union t-shirts to the first meeting with management after the strike. Solidarity works!