Press Release: Hotel and airport workers elect BC’s first Chinese-Canadian union president
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 21, 2018
Vancouver, BC: At 2pm today, Zailda Chan will be sworn in as President of UNITE HERE Local 40. Surrounded by the workers she represents at the Hyatt Hotel, Zailda Chan will celebrate alongside other newly-elected officers, Christina Bencze (Finance Secretary-Treasurer) and Nomelita (Noy) Paguio (Vice-President), all women.
“Our new executive includes workers from all over the province – from Victoria to Prince George. We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Zailda Chan.
UNITE HERE Local 40’s leadership is its most diverse ever, more closely reflecting the make-up of its 6,500 members, most of whom work in hotels and airports across BC. Members work in food service – college cafeterias, country club dining rooms and airport terminals – and as hotel employees, the majority of whom are housekeepers.
“One of my proudest moments over the last decade as a union organizer was fighting to ensure that cafeteria workers at Simon Fraser University kept their contract, jobs, wages, benefits, years of service and, most importantly, their dignity, when their employer put their contract out to a new bidder,” said Zailda Chan. “Too often in BC, employers don’t take their obligations to workers seriously enough. A contract is a contract. At Local 40, our members’ rights come first. It’s about respect.”
Outgoing President Robert Demand notes: “Zailda Chan will be a great President for our union. She’s a fighter. She has a proven record of service to members and standing up for fairness and the power of working together for workers’ rights. I look forward to serving alongside Zailda Chan at the bargaining table.”
Nearly a third of UNITE HERE Local 40’s membership holds contracts that come up for renewal this year. “I want hotel workers to know – like at the Hyatt where we are holding our swearing-in celebration – that Local 40 will bring new energy and our on-going commitment to getting fair wages and benefits for all our members and for workers who want to join our union,” adds Zailda Chan.
“Travelers going through Vancouver Airport, pick up a sandwich or water but don’t realize that the people making those sandwiches and serving them are our members. Most of them make only $13 an hour. Minimum wage increases are essential if those workers’ families are to make ends meet. Together with the BC Federation of Labour, Local 40 is committed to supporting legislated increases to the minimum wage and employer wage concessions. Now is the time. This is the year.”
The great-great-granddaughter and grandniece of Vancouver railway workers from China – most of whom paid the “head tax” a century ago – Zailda Chan’s journey to the top of UNITE HERE Local 40 began at home.
Zailda Chan moved to Canada with her parents and siblings at 13 years old. Emigrating from Venezuela – having left earlier from one of the poorest regions in Guang Dong province of China – Zailda Chan’s parents took on garment work from home at ten cents per piece. Her family’s story is one of surviving low wage jobs, layoffs and subcontracting where the employer paid her mother nearly one-third the wage they had paid to its previous unionized workforce. Zailda Chan took her family’s early experiences of racism, poverty and under-employment, and built her commitment to fight for fairness, dignity and respect for every family.
Zailda Chan joined UNITE HERE Local 40 as an organizer in 2008 and, only ten years later, is now being sworn in as its President. “UNITE HERE Local 40 is the union for hospitality workers in BC. UNITE HERE showed me how to fight, and it is an incredible honour to become Local 40’s President.”
Irene Lanzinger, the President of the BC Federation of Labour, and MLA Mable Elmore will join the podium to celebrate Zailda Chan’s achievement alongside Chan’s UNITE HERE Local 40 team.
Zailda Chan will be available immediately following the swearing in ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Georgia A room, at approximately 2:45PM. Interviews available in English, Cantonese and Spanish.
For media availability of Zailda Chan, please contact: Michelle Travis at 778-960-9785.