This weekend, thousands will flock to New Haven on the eve of the Yale-Harvard game. Amidst the excitement, there is much to plan — especially this year when Yale is not allowing Harvard students to stay in Yale dorms, prompting them to find separate accommodations, as will other fans, family and alumni. Planning housing for a weekend away may seem inconsequential, but as consumers, we have the power to vote with our wallets and support the movement for hospitality worker power and a just recovery from COVID-19.
If you’re still looking for a place to stay, you should consider a hotel with a unionized workforce.
In unionized hotels, like the Omni Hotel, workers have a say in their working conditions. Workers fight for and win higher wages, better benefits and the ability to retire with dignity. That’s probably why the Omni holds onto its employees for years; many have been working there since the alumni reading this were undergrads.
When the hospitality industry was hit hard by COVID-19, these good jobs were in jeopardy. Alongside their union, Omni Hotel workers were able to campaign for and win a worker recall law for New Haven. Thanks to worker recall, hotel workers in New Haven who were laid off due to COVID-19 have been first in line to get their jobs back when hotels reopen and work returns. Connecticut passed a similar law that applies to all hotels with more than 15 employees statewide, and it serves as just one example of the positive ripple effects that union organizing can have on all workers — both union-affiliated and nonunion-affiliated.
Worker recall laws and other union advocacy efforts are especially important because hotel jobs are disproportionately held by people of color. The Census Bureau estimates that 73 percent of housekeepers are people of color, and hotel work can often involve long hours and difficult physical work for low wages. Communities of color have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, both by the illness itself and the economic devastation, and a just recovery depends on a higher standard for hotel jobs.
As Yale students, alumni and visitors to the city of New Haven, we have a responsibility to spend our money consciously to support our neighbors when we are financially able. Advocating for labor unions in New Haven and elsewhere holds employers accountable, puts power in the hands of the workers and prioritizes the dignity and rights of our neighbors in the workplace and beyond.
Our responsibility extends past the city of New Haven. Unions uplift workers nationwide, and as consumers, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our support for fair hotels. Whether you’re traveling for the Yale-Harvard game, a work trip, graduation or spring break, consider ways to support union workers with your choices as a consumer. If we collectively make decisions to support union hotel workers, we can create a larger culture of union support in New Haven and beyond and let the hospitality industry know that we support fair hotels.
ALANA ERVIN is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at email@example.com. EMMA PETERSON is a sophomore in Pauli Murray College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. ERIC LINH is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact him at email@example.com. NOAH BRADLEY is a first-year in Pauli Murray College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.