Organizers and workers from Local 26 are picketing the Omni Providence hotel on Friday afternoon to call for fairer access to affordable health care for hotel workers.
Omni’s contract with the union expired at the end of this January, and the hotel has been in negotiations for a renewed deal since this May. Jonah Zinn, an organizer with Local 26, told RI Future, “Currently, our family plan, if you want to utilize it, including co-pays, deductibles, and premiums, our members have to pay over $5,000 a year. Even with decent wages and decent raises, our folks end up taking less money home, which ultimately means you’re having to make the choice paying for your bills or paying for health insurance.”
Zinn emphasized that hotel work can often be “traumatic,” resulting in chronic pain and other conditions. “Sometimes a lot of our members elected not to go get coverage because they were worried about the bill that might come.”
So far, Local 26 has not been able to make progress on the issue with the hotel. They’re hoping Friday’s picket will demonstrate that Omni workers will not be satisfied with incremental progress at the negotiating table.
Local 26 represents workers in hotels, TF Green airport, Twin River Casino, as well as workers administering school lunch. Last June, they held a six-minute strike at Twin River, calling for a reform of a $230 a week healthcare plan. That picket resulted in a fairer agreement between the casino and its staff, and hopes are high for the Omni to meet similar demands over a year later.
“Omni is a very large hotel company nationally,” Zinn said, “and we’re trying to make sure that, as well as these properties do, that the workers are able to share in a portion of that success.”
Among those planned to attend: Teamsters Local 251 and candidate for lieutenant governor Aaron Regunberg. Zinn urged that the union is looking for community support “from people who see this as a just fight.” The picket will begin at 4pm in front of the hotel on 1 West Exchange Street.