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“We Make it Work”: The Cultural Transformation of Hotel Workers in the City

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Abstract

This article explores the “cultural project” of a hotel workers’ union in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is an examination of the efforts of HERE (now UNITE-HERE) Local 75 to transform the identity and image of hotel workers through the promotion of cultural activities involving rank-and-file members. Part of a larger union renewal project, the cultural project attempts to build solidarity by connecting with members’ lives beyond the workplace. Furthermore, the union's cultural strategies are linked to the development of the city's tourism sector, situating the union's efforts in broader processes of place promotion. The investigation seeks to identify how worker engagement with the cultural implicates organized labour in contradictory processes producing both emancipatory and oppressive economic landscapes.

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