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Hundreds of hotel workers rally against Hilton at Conrad Condado Plaza HotelNYHTC - December 17, 2009
San Juan's Ashford Avenue was closed off by police yesterday, as hundreds of hotel workers chanted and marched in the street to protest Hilton's low wages, poor healthcare benefits, abusive managers, unsafe working conditions and violations of federal labor law. Over 300 Hilton employees from the three hotels that are currently negotiating a new contract with the union, the Caribe Hilton, the Conrad Condado Plaza and the El San Juan, rallied in front of the Condado Plaza before leading a parade one mile down Ashford Avenue to the Radisson Ambassador.
La Gastronomica Local 610 President, Felix Mejias, addressed the crowd at the rally, "We are here to tell Hilton that we are fed up. We have allowed this company for too long to strangle our standard of living. Hilton workers in Puerto Rico are not second-class citizens!" The crowd roared in response, "Enough is enough! Se acabo el abuso!" Mejias went on to describe how Hilton employees in Puerto Rico used to be paid wages comparable to other North American Hilton workers, but in recent years the company took a hard line with the employees in Puerto Rico and forced their wages and benefits far below the North American standard.
It was impossible to miss the grim reaper representing the deadly medical plan Hilton has offered its Puerto Rican employees, and three giant 10-feet-tall inflatable rats clutching sacks of money, symbolizing the management at each of the three hotels. Yet amidst these ominous figures, determination and hope were in the air, as workers sang and danced in the street. Children carried signs reading, "Support my mom. We need a medical plan" and "I support my mom". The boisterous parade down Ashford Avenue caught the attention of everybody who was in the popular tourist area, as thousands of leaflets were handed out to passers-by, many of who clapped and cheered in support.
Local 610 has been negotiating with Hilton Corporation for months, and the employees have been working without a contract since November. Three final negotiating sessions have been scheduled for the days leading up to Christmas, December 21, 22 and 23, and the workers are prepared to strike in the middle of the busy holiday season if an agreement is not reached then.