I have lived in Hartford for all my 38 years. I am proud to be raising my four kids here. But I’m getting angry.
I finally have a good job. I’ve been a room attendant at the Hilton Hartford for the past five years. Last year was the first time in my life that I made over $35,000. That was huge for me. Having a good job means I don’t have to work two or three jobs. It means I have enough time to be with my family, to help my kindergartener with homework. It means I can have family talks with my teenagers, and try to keep them off the streets.
It didn’t used to be this way. I used to work at the Wellesley Inn in East Hartford. I cleaned more rooms, but got paid less money. I had to work longer hours, and had a second job. When I got home, my body ached. I felt worked to the bone, but still poor.
That’s why I was angry to hear that the city’s new Dunkin Donuts stadium won’t agree to be covered by the city’s Living Wage.
Hartford’s Living Wage lawis supposed to require that, when taxpayers make an investment in a project, it creates good jobs that strengthen our neighborhoods. It is supposed to prevent my tax dollars from being used to build projects that threaten my income. It means you get paid $13.99/hour.
But former Mayor Pedro Segarra didn’t require that the permanent jobs at the stadium are covered by the living wage ordinance, even though the city borrowed $56 million to pay for it.
Now, the City Council is being asked to approve millions more to bail out the stadium.
The stadium includes eight kitchens and a ballroom to host weddings (which won’t be held at the Hilton). They’re also considering a hotel (whose guests won’t be staying at the Hilton either).
Let’s be honest. We know who they’ll hire as dishwashers, cooks, or hotel housekeepers. They’ll be Hartford residents. They just won’t get paid a living wage.
The $35,000 I earned cleaning hotel rooms was more than 90 percent of Hartford housekeepers. Last year, the average annual pay for a Hartford housekeeper was just $24,720. My hotel won’t be able to keep up if we keep building ballrooms and hotels that drive wages lower and lower.
How can Hartford prosper if we destroy the only good jobs we’ve got?
Monique Douglas is a member of Unite Here Local 217.