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Demonstrators say lawmakers put big business first

June 19, 2014

PROVIDENCE — Four women, including a member of the Central Falls City Council, who were on a hunger strike to protest a provision in the state budget that outlaws Rhode Island municipalities from passing their own minimum wage laws, issued the following joint statement shortly after Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the budget bill into law Thursday.
"We are the working mothers of Providence. We clean hotel rooms in this city. We make guests in our city feel at home. For this work we believe we should be paid a decent wage — a wage that allows us to provide for our children and contribute to the community. We believe that our neighbors, the voters of Providence, should be allowed to vote to give us a raise. This is why we are on hunger strike.”
“Today the political leaders of Rhode Island have decided that the interests of hotel executives and big business are more important than the quality of our communities, the fairness of our workplace, or the rights of our citizens. As working mothers we will continue to fight for better wages. The hotel industry is growing and profitable in Providence and can afford to share its wealth with our community. Two Providence hotels already provide good jobs for the community. We will not rest until all hotel companies treat us and our families fairly."
The strikers - Central Falls City Councilwoman Shelby Maldonado and hotel workers Santa Brito, Mirjaam Parada and Yilenny Ferreras – said they are contemplating what steps they will take next.
The hunger strike spent their third day on strike Thursday, camped out under two canopies erected outside the Smith Street entrance to the State House. The four women were abstaining from all food – except water – and were camped out at the State House until Chafee either signed the budget bill into law or vetoed it. The strikers wanted the governor to veto the bill, but Chafee signed it into law just after 3 p.m. yesterday.
Dozens of supporters, including state Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Providence), Providence City Council President Michael Solomon and Councilmen Luis A. Aponte and Davian Sanchez, were expected to arrive at 5 p.m. yesterday for a two-hour fast to support the strikers, but it was abruptly canceled after the Chafee signed the budget..
The budget includes a provision that prohibits municipalities from raising the minimum wage beyond state and federal requirements. The minimum wage is expected to grow to $9 statewide beginning Jan. 1.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7,

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