Protesters Greet Trump at Hotel Opening Near White House

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By Rhonda Smith

Oct. 26 — Numerous union supporters marched, chanted and beat drums outside the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., while its namesake attended a serene ribbon-cutting ceremony inside.

“Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country,” GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said during a speech in which he mixed praise for the luxury hotel’s official opening with his plans to “make America great again.”

The Oct. 26 protest was tied to a nationwide boycott of Trump properties and was related to an unresolved labor dispute at a Trump hotel in Las Vegas.

UNITE HERE, a 264,000-member labor union, started urging people earlier this year not to eat, sleep or participate in activities at Trump hotels or golf courses until the labor battle ends. The dispute involves 525 unionized hotel workers at the Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas.

The hotel in Nevada is a non-casino operation owned by Trump and businessman Phillip Ruffin. The partnership conducts business as Trump Ruffin Commercial LLC.

Certification Challenged

Workers at the Las Vegas hotel voted to unionize in December 2015. But the affiliate unions said the hotel’s management has failed to begin contract talks with them even though a National Labor Relations Board panel in July denied the owners’ request to overturn the certification of the election. The workers voted to be represented by two UNITE HERE affiliates.

Employees involved in that dispute are represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165.

“We’re going to picket every one of the properties he holds until he negotiates with the hotel workers in Las Vegas,” Joshua Armstead, a shop steward for UNITE HERE Local 23 and dining hall employee at Georgetown University in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA during the protest.

Trump Hotel representatives didn’t respond to Bloomberg BNA requests for comment.

Protest Included Support From Different Unions

Organizers said about 300 UNITE HERE supporters took part in the protest outside the hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, blocks from the White House.

They marched at one point around a statue of Benjamin Franklin and carried placards that said: “Trump Las Vegas Hotel Must Negotiate,” “Stand Up to Racism” and “Immigrants and Muslims Are Welcome Here.”

Inside, Trump touted his newest property as a success story.

“Where others have only dead ends, I’ve dreamed of the amazing possibilities that we have,” he said. “That’s why government has turned to me in the past to fix projects that had gone nowhere, that were considered total disasters.”

The hotel is on the site of Washington’s Old Post Office and Clock Tower. The Trump Organization said the project involved a $200 million redevelopment.

In addition to UNITE HERE, participating unions included the National Association of Letter Carriers, Communications Workers of America, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the AFL-CIO’s Metropolitan Washington Council.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rhonda Smith in Washington, D.C. at rsmith@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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