The North Star


Strike in a Vancouver Airport hotel

Billionaire Lalji family threatens workers only hoping to get a living wage

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Workers at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel have been on strike since June 14 in a standoff against the billionaire real-estate oligarch Lalji family.  The striking Sheraton workers continue to picket, and their call for boycott extends to adjacent - non-unionized - Hilton and Marriot hotels, which are also owned by the Lalji family. These hotels have also seen a steep reduction in business according to workers on the picket line. 

"They are just dead," said UNITE HERE Local 40 organizer Gulzar Grewal, standing on the sidewalk adjacent the half empty parking lot of the Sheraton. "This one has a convention centre and they have no business, and the restaurant is dead too."

Despite the picket and largely succesful boycott, the workers have yet to see an offer from the billionaire owners that meets their demand for a living wage, considered to be $25.68 per hour by the Living Wage Campaign. 

Instead workers say that the employer has attempted to threaten and intimidate them. 

"At the beginning of the strike they were sending out emails - probably daily - threatening us," said 26 year old banquet server Felisha Perry. "How they're going to fire us, how we're never gonna get what we want, that all the other hotels in the industry are not getting what we're asking for. Actually, a lot of other hotels Downtown are getting way more."

"The contract that they just offered us two weeks ago, they said, 'either take that contract by the 31st of December, or we'll just take that off the table and give you what we offered before'. You know, just threatening people, and trying to fire people out here [on the picket line]."

And while the 35 thousand square foot convention centre is 'dead', some airlines continue to send flight crews and airline passengers who have experienced flight delays to the Lalji owned hotels. Notably, Sheraton workers recently held a rally outside the Air Canada gates at the Vancouver International Airport to put pressure on the airline to honour the boycott. 

“It is unacceptable that Air Canada is sending their distressed passengers across our picket line," said Perry. "We have been on strike since June, fighting for living wages so we can take care of ourselves and our families in Metro Vancouver. The airline is disrespecting hospitality workers as well as their own guests by this disgraceful behavior. We ask the public to boycott this scab airline."

Five months into a strike with no obvious end in sight, Sheraton workers that North Star interviewed on the picket line expressed determination to see their struggle through.

"I feel like everybody out here has become more like a family than anything," said Perry, "because we're all going through the same thing, and we're all pushing through it, and we know that if we all stay together, we'll get something."

When talking about her coworkers, Grewal said: "They are very strong and they are strong-minded."

"We're just fighting for living wages" she continues, "because these days, everything's so expensive. Workers have lots of power, when they are together, what they want, they can get it."

Strike in a Vancouver Airport Hotel

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