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Netroots Nation has been looking for a host city and venue for 2011.  This year we've found ourselves in a unique position to help the workers at a hotel we're considering for 2011.  From Rhode Island's Future:

Bravo to our fellow bloggers at Netroots Nation for supporting the Westin Boycott and telling Providence and the Westin Hotel that they will not host their 2011 conference here unless the labor dispute between the Hotel Workers Union - UNITE HERE Local 217 - and the Westin's managing Procaccianti Group is resolved.

We're excited we've got this opportunity to stand with working Americans, join me below the fold to hear more about it.

[UPDATE 11:45am, 5/4: linked to Rhode Island's Future blog instead of the Providence Journal

For those who don't know me, I'm Nolan Treadway, Political Director for Netroots Nation

We began our search for a venue for Netroots Nation 2011 considering a wide range of cities and regions and found Providence to be the best fit.  The town itself is fun and interesting, filled with restaurants and bars right near where the convention would be.  The convention facilities are also great, compact but with plenty of space for us.   And Providence is a lower-cost option in the North East that keeps us within driving distance of places like Boston and New York without paying a premium for being in those cities.  In addition to all that we'd be in the heart of the action for the 2012 election, with two of the top Senate races for 2012 in neighboring states.  2012 is a year in which someone will beat Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman will either retire or be retired in Connecticut.

As we narrowed our options to the final few cities, it became clear that Providence offered a unique situation.  Our partner is our venue search is a group called INMEX, a meeting planning company we've partnered with for over 4 years that seeks to "ensure that [NN is] spending our dollars with socially responsible hotel corporations."  INMEX brought to our attention that the Westin in Providence was in the midst of a labor dispute, and the hotel owners had just taken an ugly, drastic step [from same post above]:

Why is Local 217's boycott going on?  Let's look at the facts.

  • Management imposed a 20 percent  wage cut;
  • Management unilaterallly quadrupled employee health insurance costs;
  • Management threatened to replace workers with subcontracted labor like the  controversial "Hyatt 100" decision in Boston;
  • Management fired three workers in  retaliation for joining a picket line (they were later reinstated four  months later - after the NLRB became involved); and
  • Management broke off contract  talks with the hotel workers.

The hotel owners, clear out of the blue, cut union salaries by 20 percent and increased employee contributions to health care by 43 percent (of the total premium cost).  And this was done overnight, with no warning.  Employees at the Westin we basically asked to decide if they would like to get paid or have health care -- and they were asked to decide immediately.

By this time we had already made a trip to Providence to visit the venues and we knew it would be on the top of our list if not for the union-busting owners.  So we decided to do what anyone in the Netroots community would do when faced with this choice.  We find ourselves with some leverage in this fight, and we are standing up for workers who are being treated unfairly.  So we're taking the unusual step of going public with our intentions in the hope that it will move the hotel owners, the Procaccianti Group, back into negotiations or at least to return the employees wages and benefits to what they were under the previous contract.

So now it's up to the hotel owners.  Do they want the likes of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Nancy Pelosi coming to Providence for our convention?  Do they want Kossacks money in their bars and restaurants?  Do they want 250 news media from around the world covering what's going on in Providence, or do they want those people (and their money) to go elsewhere?

It's up to them.  We're ready to commit to Providence, but we will only do so if we know the workers are getting a fair shake - and for us that means working under a collectively bargained contract that the employees vote to accept.  

Will you help us put pressure on the Westin to give workers a fair shake? Call The Procaccianti Group at 401-946-4600 and demand they give the Westin employees a fair contract (and leave a comment on how the call went).

Originally posted to Nolan on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:24 AM PDT.

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