Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unite Here ! Raises The Temperature On Behalf Of Downtown Hotel Workers

Its one part brazen, one part brilliant. 

Unite Here ! is a national group seeking to unionize hotel workers here in Indianapolis.  Organizer Becky Smith is spearheading the 'adopt a hotel worker' movement that showed up in force at last night's City-County Council meeting.

You may recall how hotel management hid behind the skirts and aprons of the hotel workers two years ago, in order to get more tax money to the Capital Improvement Board (CIB).  The CIB provides about 75% of the funding of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (ICVA).  The ICVA spends money to discount room rates to conventions.  See how tax revenues gets into the hands of the hotels? 

Concurrent with raising their voices and using hotel workers as props to get taxes raised that would benefit themselves, these same hotel managers were increasing work loads, outsourcing jobs, and fighting the workers' right to unionize.

It does not take much of a realist to know that any hotel worker who stands up and speaks out against hotel management risks losing their job.  Unite Here's answer - other folks step and and speak out on behalf of hotel workers - one person/one worker at a time.

Its one part gutzy, one part genius.

The focus of the adopt a hotel worker program is Prop 242, which was introduced at last night's Council meeting.

This proposal, sponsored by Councillors Lewis, Sanders, B. Mahern, D. Mahern, and Moriarty Adams, would return to a qualified hotel worker, the amount of County Option Income Tax paid by the worker.  The aggregate payments could not exceed $250,000 or 10% of all money spent by the City/County on outside consultants in any particular year, whichever is less.  The hotel worker must pay Marion County's COIT, must make more than $10,000 as a downtown hotel worker, and must make less than $25,000 total. 

Smith is interested in getting Prop 242 passed with a bi-partisan majority of the Council.

It strikes me that the effort alone will help shed a bright light on the fact that those in top spots of the downtown hospitality industry are personally prospering, partially due to the largess of taxpayers, but also partially due to greater workloads and lower wages for those who occupy lower spots on the ladder.

It was exciting to see the crowd of red-shirted stand-ins for the hotel workers last night.  They filled the seats, they filled the aisles, and they spilled into the lobby.  It is good to be reminded that sometimes we simply must lead with our heart and our conscience and do what is right - simply because it is right.

I cannot end this piece without giving props to Council President, Ryan Vaughn.  He did exactly the right thing last night regarding the crowd.  He asked all city workers to give up their seats, and he let those folks standing in the aisles remain.  So, kudos to him for being absolutely reasonable.

The proposal was assigned to the Rules committee, which will consider it on September 27 beginning at 5:30 pm, in the Public Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

All in all, this will be one to watch.  For now though, you have to admit that Unite Here's adopt a hotel worker approach has some cachet.  Its one part sassy, one part smart.


Anonymous said...

It will be fascinating to what Republicans come up with reasons they are opposed to THIS tax cut.

Len Farber said...

Thanks for publicizing this, Pat.
I agree that Ryan Vaughn did the right thing. He also saw me standing there, knowing my campaign would react if he didn't.

Len Farber,
Candidate for City-County Counicl,
3rd District