Monday, January 31, 2022

Don’t Look the Other Way


From “Sleepovers” in March of 2019:

“The Sheraton at the Lakefront is going to have a new life as a Marriott. Not just any Marriott, mind you, but the four-star Marriott Autograph brand. In an article for the Baltimore Business Journal, Carley Milligan writes:

Owner and developer Costello Construction will add 70 rooms, bringing the total to 290, and update the entire interior and exterior of the hotel that sits on Lake Kittamaqundi at 10207 Wincopin Cir. The focus will be on creating a "high quality" and "luxury" product, Costello Construction President David Costello said.” (Words in bold by Carley Milligan, Baltimore Business Journal.)

You may have read that the Sheraton has now reopened as Merriweather Lakehouse. They’ve been posting some lovely photographs online. What you may not know is the story of how they laid off all their staff and have refused to rehire them.

Workers protest reopening of Merriweather Lakehouse Hotel that hasn’t rehired laid-off employees, union says Katie V. Jones, Baltimore Sun 

More than 100 employees, including housekeepers, banquet workers and cooks, many of whom are members of Unite Here Local 7, a labor union representing workers in Baltimore’s hospitality industry, were laid off when the hotel closed. None were recalled back to their positions for the reopening, according to Tracy Lingo, staff director for the union.

Also concerning: what happened to the two U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans the company received, a total of $2.5 million, for the purpose of helping with payroll and preserving jobs? Workers did not see any of that money nor were their jobs preserved.

County Council member Liz Walsh has introduced a bill, CB 10, to protect hospitality workers’ right to return to their jobs as business returns during the pandemic. Baltimore and Washington have already passed such bills.

CB-10 needs four votes to pass as emergency legislation and make the biggest difference for the greatest number of hotel workers. Councilmember Walsh, who sponsored the bill, and Councilmember Rigby are strongly supporting CB-10. Council Chair Jones  and Councilmember Jung have not taken public positions and Councilmember Yungman has been leading opposition to the bill. Send an email to these Councilmembers now asking them to vote in favor of the bill and ensure economic stability for Howard County hospitality workers. - - PATH, information from Call to Action: Equity and Justice for HoCo Workers.

Howard County advocacy group PATH is spreading the word about this issue and asking members of our community to get involved. Click here to learn more:

To me, this is the central issue here:  the employees that were cast off  during the pandemic may not look like me or you. They may not be our family or neighbors. But I think you’d be surprised to learn that many of the workers ARE our neighbors. Not all, but many live in Columbia, worship at the congregations in PATH (and other local congregations). Not hiring them back will make it harder for us to live into Rouse's vision that Columbia “ will provide a housing opportunity for anyone who works there, from the company janitor to the company president…”

We haven’t felt their desperation or experienced their hardships. But they exist. And if we, who have so much privilege, do not use it to work for what is just, who are we? Should a pretty hotel succeed on the backs of wronged Black and Brown workers? And is Columbia the kind of place where we just look the other way?

Please take the time to learn more about what PATH is doing to support this upcoming legislation.  They are making it easy for you to get involved. Then write the members of the County Council to support CB 10. They need to hear that our community is not the kind of place where we ignore this kind of injustice and human suffering. 

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