In what may be a new low for a newspaper that recently seems committed to charting new territory in its depth of uncaring, classist fear mongering, the Providence Journal has declared low wage working mothers to be a special interest group posing a “threat” to Providence. Disingenuously claiming that, “we all want workers to earn more money,” the unsigned editorial calls mandating a $15 an hour living wage for hotel workers “an election-year stunt divorced from economic reality.”
What is divorced from reality is the idea that a group of people peacefully petitioning their government for relief from exploitative treatment and a chance at decent wages should somehow be characterized as a “threat.” Is it a threat when workers ask for fair wages? Is it a threat when workers ask for fair treatment?
The ProJo, as usual, has it all backwards. The only threats are coming from the hotels, and the hotels have shown that they are capable of delivering on their threats. There are stories, more than one, of workers being threatened with losing their jobs if they persist in trying to unionize. Several workers, including many young mothers, have been fired. The hotels also threaten to close up shop or stop hiring if this proposal passes.
Imagine if the room rates at the Renaissance were to go up from $250 to $255 a night to cover the increase in workers pay. Does this really sound like the economic apocalypse foretold in prophecy?
The ProJo quotes Todd B. Finard, CEO of Finard Properties, which owns the Providence Biltmore hotel as saying, “We pay our people well and have labor peace. But if room rates go up, how can Providence compete?”
Guess what? The Biltmore already pays some of their workers nearly $15 an hour. Testimony was given at the City Council meeting from a woman who makes $14.85 cleaning rooms. She talked about how this wage allows her to provide for her children and even save money for college, something working women at the Renaissance for $8.50 can only dream of.
Who are these “threats” to Providence that the ProJo wants to terrify us with? One can’t help but wonder what it is about them that the ProJo finds so threatening…