Their employer wants to take away from their pension plan, reduce their earned time off, and cut their health care benefits. So workers at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Albany, members of the Hotel Trades Council, filled the streets Tuesday with protests and a cry for fairness.
Other unions — including NYSUT, led by President Andy Pallotta — joined lawmakers and social justice advocates to rally with the hotel workers in an impressive display of solidarity.
Having an employer go after an earned pension, said Hilton cook Tori Bellamy, is "deeply painful."
Bellamy, who has been a cook at the Albany hotel for 23 years, said that United Capital Corporation, owner of the Hilton Albany, makes enough money to support the union's modest proposals.
Shirin Mistry, who works at the front desk of the Hilton Albany and has been on duty for more than 20 years, took to the microphone at the rally announce: "We will not be intimidated by greed and mean-spirited tactics!" She said that, through the efforts of HTC, Hilton workers have been able to earn a living and support their families.
"All we are asking for is enough for our families," said Mistry, mirroring the mantra of the HTC members whose t-shirts asked for “ENOUGH.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the city supported United Capital Corporation with tax breaks for the downtown Hilton. Now, it is turning against the workers who make the Hilton "a world-class hotel" in the capital city.
"We will make our voices heard," she promised the workers.
HTC President Peter Ward called the company's tactics "corporate welfare." He said the head of UCC told Ward he had grown up poor.
“Shame on you for growing up poor and forgetting where you came from," said Ward.
Many lawmakers stepped to the microphone, expressing outrage and pledged support.
"We need to keep our pensions and fair wages," said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany.
"We in the 99 percent of this country need to stand together," added Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie.
Assemblyman John McDonald, D-Cohoes, said he is saddened by the treatment of the Hilton employees, while Assemblyman Neil Breslin, D-Albany, roused the workers to chant for "A living wage!"