WILLIAMSBURG — Dozens of hospitality workers employed by Colonial Williamsburg (CW) picketed in front of both the Williamsburg Lodge on South England Street and the Williamsburg Inn on Francis Street, calling for higher wages and better treatment.
The early morning protests started at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, with two more scheduled later in the day at Chowning’s Tavern and King’s Arms Tavern, both on Duke of Gloucester Street.
The workers on the picket line are represented by UNITE HERE Local 25 (Local 25), a hospitality workers union in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Local 25 and CW have been going back and forth at the negotiating table since May 2021 and talks are still ongoing according to union representative, Benjy Cannon.
Currently, both parties are trying to come to an agreement over a union contract that expired on Nov. 30.
In a statement issued on Dec. 3, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF) stated that it has given raises to non-union workers and would like to extend the same to members of Local 25, but that it cannot meet certain stipulations set out by the union.
While representatives on both sides continue to talk in the boardrooms, the hospitality workers will continue to make their voices heard on the street.
“This is a walk and work,” Cannon said. “People are showing up before their shifts and we will see what happens if we do not get anywhere this week. We are now calling for a boycott of this property [Williamsburg Lodge], the Williamsburg Inn, Chowning’s Tavern and Kings Arms Tavern”
For hospitality workers like Willie Brown, who has worked for CW for six years as a houseman, the forced overtime and low pay has been a strain for both him and his colleagues.
“We don’t have time for our families,” Brown said during the demonstration. “Six days a week they just put us on the schedule and they don’t care.”
Brown says that the workers’ issues with Colonial Williamsburg’s treatment of them goes back several years.
“We were supposed to have gotten a raise two or three years ago,” he said. “Now we have people have worked through the pandemic and they [CW] should appreciate us. We put our lives on the line and they just don’t care. We don’t get a bonus. No nothing. Yet it got so bad that they wanted to bring new hires in here and pay them a $500 bonus for a worker, $1,500 for a supervisor, for people who have been here, nothing.”