Hotel workers plan hunger strike if budget bans municipal wage raise

Hotel workers and their supporters said Monday afternoon that three or more of them will begin a hunger strike if the R.I. Senate passes a state budget that bans municipalities from individually voting to raise the minimum wage. More

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Hotel workers plan hunger strike if budget bans municipal wage raise

Posted 6/15/14

(Updated, June 17, 3:20 p.m.)

PROVIDENCE – Hotel workers and their supporters confirmed Tuesday morning that three Providence hotel workers and a Central Falls city counselor will move ahead with their planned hunger strike to protest a provision of the state budget banning municipalities from individually voting to raise the minimum wage.

The R.I. Senate passed the fiscal 2015 state budget containing the ban in a 32-5 vote on Monday evening.

Jenna Karlin, Rhode Island Director for Unite Here 217, said the strike could last about seven days and participants said they’d subsist on water.

The union helped organize a petition to the Providence City Council to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers to $15 an hour, with city councilors voting last Thursday to put the matter to referendum on the November ballot. That same day, the state House of Representatives passed a budget for fiscal year 2015 that included a provision to ban such measures by any city in the state.

Gathering on the steps of the Rotunda at the Statehouse, workers and supporters held a sign that read, “Let our neighbors vote to give us a raise.”

Mirjaam Parada, an Omni Hotel worker who makes $17.41 an hour, more than the $8 minimum wage, and Central Falls City Councilor Shelby Maldonado, who does not work at a hotel but is a union representative, both plan to participate in the hunger strike as a show of support, because workers don’t make a living wage, they said.

“The only way to support the workers is to be on a hunger strike,” said Parada.

Maldonado said she is participating because she believes the ban would deprive Providence hotel workers of their right to vote on the issue locally.

“Let the people decide for themselves their own economic future,” she said, adding later, when questioned to explain why she’s involved, “We want to be a voice for them. Providence workers live paycheck to paycheck.”

The fiscal year 2015 budget also includes a provision to raise the $8 minimum wage to $9 in January.

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