Just some of the many protesters!
Todays Toronto Plaza Hotel Strike Rally was a rousing success! There were a sea of union flags waving in the sunny summer breeze. A free barbecue. Lots of solidarity. It was a perfect August day for a protest rally and a perfectly good protest rally in every possible way.
I took a rough count of 50 protesters shortly after noon. Considerably more arrived before the rally was over. A quick look at the union colours showed that the following were there: USW [Steel Workers], CAW [Autoworkers], UFCW [Commercial Food Workers], ATU [Transit Workers], ETFO [Elementary Teachers], OECTA [Catholic Teachers] the Durham Labour Council, and the Toronto Education Workers. Also in attendance were the ridings Federal NDP MP and of course Sid Ryan from the OFL [Ontario Federation of Labour].
Many protesters came dressed up in animal costumes -an obvious reference to the owner Mr. Rehan Chaudary's recent letter to a mediator. He wrote that he refused to negotiate with "animals". That should be an immediate demonstration of Chaudary's complete disrespect for his hotel staff. The hotel workers, many of whom worked there for up to 30 years have been out on the picket lines for 11 weeks now caught between a rock and a hard place. Chaudary is demanding a non negotiable pay cut of up to 28%, a loss of all benefits and seniority. He also refuses to allow union representatives to access his hotel property.
To drive the point home the police were called. They arrived to tell the protesters that we would be fined if we refused to get off his property, in todays case the small grass strip out front the hotel along Wilson Avenue. We were then all forced to stay on the sidewalk, a ludicrous situation for the large crowd in attendance.
OFL's Sid Ryan stokes the protest with his fiery oratory!
I discussed Chaudary's recent media claims with the striking work staff. * They scoffed at the idea that he must demand these cuts or go out of business. There were claims that the bed bug ridden ghetto hotel is purposefully being run into the ground as a tax write off. Also that the rooms are frequently rented for cash under the table by the local sex trade workers who receive free visits depending upon how many customers they can frequently bring to the hotel regardless of how short their stay might be. It was suggested a Revenue Canada tax audit might well be in order.
I asked about the pride in which Rehan Chaudary has spoken about his prized hotel and of how he is only trying to save it from going out of business through his arbitrary labour cuts. There were numerous allegations of incidents that call into question the credibility of his remarks. A hotel fire occurred due to an overheated bed bug machine. A two week old dead body was found in one room. These were all also highlighted in the USW protest flyer being distributed out front of the hotel. Apparently there have also been about a dozen guns seized in Chaudary's prized slum hotel too.
Speeches followed at about 1pm. By then the sidewalk was totally blocked with the large crowd of chanting protesters who then spilled back onto Mr. Chaudrys private property. A number of union presidents, representatives and hotel workers delivered fine fiery speeches. The OFL's Sid Ryan gave a rousing oratory after which the protesters broke out into a loud chorus of "Solidarity Forever". Our voices echoed off the hotel walls. Many of the cars + trucks on busy Wilson Avenue honked in support. All in all a great summer day of protest - a fabulous demonstration of union support for the hotel workers in week 11 of their strike!
OECTA TECT President Mario Bernardo + I
The unions have pledged ongoing support for the strikers and the boycott that has been placed upon the hotel. It's conference hall had once been a popular space to rent for large labour meetings. No more! These have since stopped. Phone calls and emails telling Mr. Chaudary to show respect for his workers are also being encouraged . You can phone or email Rehan respectively @
1-416-938-1666 + email@example.com
As for the hotel workers, they have vowed to step up their home protest visits outside Rehan Chaudary's million dollar mansion in Brampton. Also those of his various family members who together own Virk Holdings Inc. which in turn owns and operates the hotel among it's numerous other business interests. These include Chaudary Poultry the supplier of eggs to Burnbrae Farms. Wry jokes were made about soon returning a lot of the eggs in mass to the Chaudary properties.
The collapse of the Toronto Plaza Hotel Workers 11 week strike would represent a blow against the whole Ontario labour union movement. Business owners like Rehan Chaudary and Virk Holdings Inc must learn that name calling, low substandard living wages and a removal of even the most basic of benefits will not be tolerated. Don't doubt that others like Mr. Chaudary are also watching to see if he can get away with doing so in the ongoing "Austerity War" against all our provinces workers. Perhaps before the summer holidays are over you can visit the picket lines to show your solidarity and support too?
Show your support for the 11 week strike with a phone call, email or visit!
* = Rehan Chaudary`s contentious comments to the Toronto Star are Here.