Union Endorses Mayor de Blasio for President

It was standing room only at the union hall on June 5, when the Hotel Trades Council endorsed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for U.S. President.

The full house was loud and enthusiastic before Mayor de Blasio even arrived, and the fervor grew stronger when HTC President Peter Ward introduced him.

“Everything I needed to know I learned by age 13 on the streets of Brooklyn,” Ward’s remarks began. “And what I learned was that you stand by your friends. Friends aren’t easy to come by and when you have one you stand with them. Today we’re here with Bill de Blasio. And we’re here because he’s a real friend.”

United to put working people first!

The audience erupted in cheers at this remark, the entire crowd even standing in a show of strong appreciation, and it was hardly the first time the presence of de Blasio rocked Gertrude Lane Auditorium.

“Let me tell you why he’s a real friend” Ward continued. “He’s a real friend because he knows who we are. He didn’t come into this world with a silver spoon in his mouth. He knows what struggle is all about. He knows who the people in our union are. When he became Mayor we were fighting against market forces so powerful it was hard to describe. A hotel industry that was growing exponentially in front of our eyes. A condominium market that was exploding and taking over hotels and putting our members out into the street. And we had this company, Airbnb, operating illegally and taking food off of our tables. In just a few short years we changed the zoning text in our city, thanks to this Mayor, to create a fair process to make sure that hotels that come here to operate go through steps that guarantee not only that their interests are served but also the interests of the community. He signed a law that says you can’t take hotels and turn them into condominiums for millionaires and billionaires. And he has fought Airbnb every step of the way and he continues to do so. And that’s what a friend is!”

Ward’s introduction of de Blasio drew strong media attention. Many newspapers, television and radio outlets reported the endorsement. In addition, Ward appeared on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” with Errol Louis and his remarks explaining HTC’s support for de Blasio, and why he would make a great president, appeared as an opinion piece in the New York Daily News. Ward’s Daily News Op-Ed piece is printed in its entirety in his column in this edition of the Hotel Voice magazine.

In his remarks Ward explained that hotel workers’ jobs are really no different from those of factory workers in Indiana, auto workers in Michigan, meat cutters in Nebraska and coal miners in Appalachia. “It’s simple,” Ward said. “Our hotels are our factories. We have the same fears as every other working class blue collar person in this country. We face the same struggles, the same market forces, the same crushing powers that have taken away jobs, standards of living, quality of family life, and we’ve been able to fight back successfully. We’ve been able to do that because we have friends. We have friends who understand us, care about us and work on our behalf. And one of the best friends we have is our friend Mayor Bill de Blasio.”
As Ward said these words the entire auditorium rose to its feet and gave de Blasio as robust and as appreciative a welcome as anyone has ever received at the union hall. In his remarks to members Mayor de Blasio did not disappoint.

“Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t get better than this,” de Blasio said. “Everything strong, everything noble, everything powerful about the labor movement is found right here in this room with the Hotel Trades Council.”

De Blasio was just getting started. He pointed out the accomplishments of the members in the audience, saying, “You have fought so hard for the dignity of working people. You have won the kind of respect, the kind of lifestyle, the kind of wages and benefits that every working person in America deserves. You have shown the way. You are the model. And I have watched you with pride, with admiration and with solidarity, as you have gotten stronger and stronger. Right here in this room you see the power of working people. And this power has to be felt all across this nation. What you are doing here has to happen in every corner of this country because it’s time that working people get what they deserve!”

Needless to say, the packed auditorium agreed and repeated chants of “De-Blasio!” filled the room.

“Right now America is not working for working people,” de Blasio continued. “Right now the federal government is not on the side of working people. The federal government is on the side of the one percent and it’s time to change that!”

Referring to HTC de Blasio added, “You’ve grown in numbers, you’ve grown in power. You’ve grown to not only do great things for yourselves but to do great things for this city, for this state, for this nation. You have helped so many people far beyond this union because you stand up for working people. You stand up for the people who don’t have the blessings of union membership.”

Quoting Ward’s earlier remarks, de Blasio said, “I think you have a lot in common with that factory worker in Detroit, that coal miner in Appalachia, that meat packer in Nebraska and that timber cutter in Washington State. I think you’re all fighting for dignity and decency. You’re all fighting to take care of your families. You want the hard work that you have done to be rewarded justly, but it’s not happening in this country for millions and millions of U.S. workers.”

De Blasio said that when working people unite, the country will change. “And so we now embark on something sacred, which is to change the dialogue in this nation, to make it about working people again.” He said the country needs the voices of working people to be as strong at the numbers of working people. He said America needs to make clear that there’s always money there to bring justice to working people, that there’s always the money to provide health care to working people, that there’s always enough money for education for working people’s children and that there’s always enough money for affordable housing for working families.

“I’m going to be saying that all over the country, de Blasio said. “Wherever I go you’re going to be hearing some people say to me, ‘Oh, that’s a beautiful idea but there’s not enough money.’ And you know what I say? I say there’s plenty of money in this world. I say there’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands!”

De Blasio said that’s what this election is all about: giving working people their fair share. He used the HTC as an example: “Now, brothers and sisters, with your help we have changed this city. I remember when I called Peter Ward in the first days of my administration more than five years ago and I said, ‘We are going to give all we got to get pre-K for all our children. We are going to give all we got to make sure that every middle school child gets after school for free. You know what Peter Ward did? He told me about his own childhood. He told me what after school had meant to him. He told me about all the working people whose lives were changed because they got a little break and had an opportunity to take care of themselves and their children. He told me he was all in. He told me HTC was all in. And we went to Albany and you may remember that the nay-sayers and the Doubting Thomases said we would never het pre-K for all. They said it would never pass in Albany. Well, those pundits, those purveyors of the conventional wisdom, never met the HTC!”

There’s more. De Blasio added, “We have accomplished so much because you at HTC have proved that you really can put working people first! We proved it’s not a dream because we made it a reality right here in New York. Pre-K for all? We did that! Paid sick leave for hundreds of thousands of people? We did that! Remember all the times they said the $15 an hour minimum wage would never happen? Well, we did that! And you know the hundreds of thousands who lived in fear in our city because they had no health care? Well, we decided there could be a different way. And together here in New York City we are now guaranteeing health care for all New Yorkers. We did that!”

De Blasio concluded by promising that as U.S. President he would stand up for working people. “As your President I’m going to do something very simple: I’m going to put working people first,” he vowed. “We need to change the way people think in our nation. We need to make working people realize that this country should be for them. So I want you to join me in a simple chant: ‘Working people first!’”

The chant echoed through the auditorium. And many HTC members have since decided to support de Blasio’s campaign through contributions of money and through volunteer efforts working on the campaign. By the middle of June, more than 5,000 members had contributed more than $90,000 to the de Blasio campaign. Together, members are trying to get other working people in the U.S. to unite and say, “Working people first!”