I’m a lifelong Connecticut resident and I’ve been working at the Hartford Hilton since 2005, when I was just 17 years old. I love my job, and I’m proud that I have been able to build a good life here with my wages and benefits. I’ve given so much to the hotel, and I’m not alone. The majority of my 120 co-workers, like me, have worked there for more than 15 years. Many of us have been here longer than the hotel’s even been a Hilton.
And since March 2020, we have been fighting to make sure that hospitality workers in state can survive this pandemic and come back stronger. I even knocked doors in Florida and Georgia with my union, Local 217 UNITE HERE, to kick Donald Trump out of the White House and help win back the Senate for the Democrats. Hundreds of UNITE HERE members also knocked doors in Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. I returned home from both of these trips, exhausted, but proud at the part I played defending our democracy.
Now, less than a year later, I’m fighting for my job again. Wealthy developers Len Wolman and Randy Salvatore are trying to close half of my hotel to convert it into luxury condos. If they succeed, the majority of us who work there may lose our jobs permanently. What makes me especially furious is after everything I did in 2020 and everything my co-workers have been through, Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, might be approving millions of taxpayer dollars to help them do it.
The hospitality industry has been devastated by the COVID pandemic. But the devastation has not been equal. All of us who work at the Hilton are Connecticut residents. Most of us are people of color. Our communities have been hit hard by unemployment and by COVID. The enhanced unemployment benefits from the pandemic are over, even as the Omicron variant spreads and cases look like they’re about to skyrocket once again.
Meanwhile, hotel developers own millions of dollars of property and have already received substantial assistance from the government. The Hilton sits on Hartford city land, it’s received a loan from HUD, and both Wolman’s Waterford Group and Salvatore’s RMS Companies have received PPP loans for properties they own.
The State Bond Commission is meeting on Tuesday. On the agenda: doling out an $11 million loan of taxpayer money to wealthy developers that will put over 120 jobs at risk. That’s more than 120 Connecticut families like mine that could lose the ability to pay our bills.
Gov. Lamont chairs the Bond Commission, and he could easily intervene. If we lose our jobs, we’re worried about how we’ll afford our homes, and how we’ll take care of our families if we get sick. If Gov. Lamont has taxpayer money to allocate, it’s us who need help, not Randy Salvatore and Len Wolman!
Gov. Lamont has a chance to send a clear signal that he cares about working people like me. On Tuesday, his State Bond Commission can refuse to commit public money for the Hartford Hilton luxury condo conversion until we know that the workers have security.
If he instead gives $11 million of taxpayer money to The Waterford Group and Randy Salvatore’s company so they can fire most of us, hotel workers in Connecticut will remember it. I bet working people throughout Connecticut will be watching, and they’ll remember it, too. They’ll be wondering if they’re next on the chopping block next time a wealthy friend of Ned Lamont’s wants some taxpayer money.
Mo De Carvalho Laurent is a Guest Service Representative at the Hilton Hartford and a Shop Steward and Vice President with Local 217 – UNITE HERE.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.
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