Colonial Williamsburg hospitality workers picket for better working conditions

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Posted at 10:28 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-12 14:16:14-05

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Colonial Williamsburg hospitality workers want better working conditions.

Hospitality workers picketed outside of Colonial Williamsburg, advocating for better treatment. They’re represented by a hospitality worker union.

The union says the workers have gone from extended layoffs during the pandemic to long work weeks. They say the workers want more affordable healthcare, an end to mandatory overtime and to be able to spend more time with their families and loved ones.

"We work 6 days a week every week. Every week they don't ask us, they just put us down for 6 days a week. People are very tired," Willie Brown said, a Colonial Williamsburg hospitality worker.

"We need time to stay at home with our families," Agatatha Hilt said, a Colonial Williamsburg housekeeper.

In response to the planned rally, Dana Tomlin, chief of staff to the president of Colonial Williamsburg said, “We’re hopeful that if we can conclude these negotiations, we will provide raises that will attract more talent. That will provide much-needed relief as well as at the conclusion of these negotiations. We will be able to hire temporary workers that will provide relief for our employees.”

“The main issue is the issue of forced work. People have been working 12-hour days, six-day weeks for weeks at end, months on end. They haven’t been able to be with their families, children,” said John Boardman, executive secretary treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 25.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has provided the union with a contract, offering hospitality workers a 23.5% raise. In regards to overtime concerns, the foundation says higher wages will help recruit new employees, which will reduce the overtime burden.

Colonial Williamsburg is still in negotiations with the union and says they have had more than 20 formal meetings since May.

There were two pickets on Saturday: One at 12 p.m. outside Chowning's Tavern on Duke of Gloucester street, and another outside King's Arms Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street at 4 p.m. News attended the 4 p.m. picket.

Saturday's event brought over 100 hospitality workers and community allies.

Unite Here Local 25 says they now plan to boycott the places where they picketed Saturday.