Boathouse workers win hard-earned victory!

NYHTC — September 28, 2011



Anyone who goes to work for the Boathouse restaurant in the future owes a debt of gratitude and respect to the courageous group of Boathouse employees who fought and suffered many hardships to obtain justice and a better life for themselves, their families, and each other.

On September 21, 2011, the union and Boathouse management finally signed a tentative agreement. The next day, the Boathouse strikers called an end to the strike, by voting unanimously to approve the union contract. The strikers went back to work on Monday, September 26.

The new union contract represents a giant leap forward for the employees of the Boathouse. It provides for substantial and immediate wage increases, effectively raising the large portion of the Boathouse staff who were living in poverty out from poverty. It also corrects the gross inequities that existed in pay rates between workers who perform the same work.

Number of workers Percentage raises Boathouse employees received immediately upon signing of the union contract
7 workers received a Raise of less than 10%
22 workers received a 10% raise
8 workers received a Raise of more than 10% and less than 15%
3 workers received a Raise of more than 15% and less than 20%
20 workers received a Raise of more than 20% and less than 30%
5 workers received a Raise of more than 30% and less than 39%
35 workers received a 40% raise
5 workers received a Raise of more than 40% and less than 45%
12 workers received a Raise of more than 45% and less than 55%
5 workers received a Raise of more than 55% and less than 65%
9 workers received a Raise of more than 65% and less than 75%
18 workers received an 80% raise
3 workers received a 90% raise

Under this contract, Boathouse employees (who previously received low and infrequent raises, if any) will also receive subsequent annual wage increases as follows:

Subsequent raises for Non-tipped workers Subsequent raises for Tipped workers
August 31, 2012 80¢ per hour 40¢ per hour
August 31, 2013 80¢ per hour 40¢ per hour
August 31, 2014 80¢ per hour 40¢ per hour

Before this contract, only 3 non-management employees at the Boathouse had health coverage. In three months, all Boathouse employees, their spouses or domestic partners, and their children will have access to full, high-quality, employer-funded health and dental coverage, without paying any employee contributions out of their paychecks.

Before this contract, Boathouse employees had no paid sick days, holidays or personal days. Now, they have three sick days, four holidays, and one personal day.

Seasonal employees, for the first time, now have the right to return to their jobs every year (rather than being fired and having to apply to be re-hired) and the right to claim year-round job openings by seniority.

Favoritism, in scheduling, promotions, the opportunity to earn tips, and the assignment of work, has been abolished.



The contract also provides strong protections for health and safety, and against discrimination, sexual harassment, and abusive or disrespectful treatment by managers. Of course, it also provides excellent protection against unfair discipline, and fair, fast and effective procedures to resolve grievances at work.

The contract also required management to reinstate all those who were fired for supporting the union with full back pay. Those workers are now back to work, and their retroactive pay is being calculated.

In September 2009, the Boathouse workers started a long arduous struggle to win the right to join our union. They were seeking fair wages; health insurance; paid benefit days; a fair system to resolve their grievances; protection against unjust discipline; fair schedules; job security; an end to favoritism, discrimination, and abusive treatment by managers; a safe and healthy workplace; and respect.

In the face of constant employer resistance, and in an environment of pervasive fear, it took many months to build a committee of leaders strong enough to unite a majority of 70% of the employees behind the union. Throughout the campaign, Boathouse workers were unlawfully threatened, harassed, intimidated, lied to, spied on, punished, and fired, to prevent them from exercising their legal right to organize. More than one quarter of the Boathouse staff were fired during the organizing drive, for no other reason than that they supported the union. Despite this concerted persecution, the union grew stronger in the Boathouse. One by one, individual workers stood up and joined those who were already openly supporting the organizing drive. Even many of the employees who were fired for their union activity continued to organize, donating most of their time to the fight.

Throughout the fight, the workers who put their jobs at risk to win this contract had the full weight and commitment of our union behind them. The union expended hundreds of thousands of dollars from its treasury to support the Boathouse workers, and staked its reputation in an uncertain and very public battle. Our union's staff, especially our organizers, also gave their hearts and souls to the campaign, for two years, working many long hours side-by-side with, and for, the Boathouse workers. Throughout the fight, management told the workers that the union would abandon them, and that the union was not interested in improving the workers' conditions. The contract they now have is proof-positive that the union not only kept, but went well beyond, all its commitments to the workers.

On August 9, 2011, the Boathouse strike began when approximately half the employees walked off the job, joining on the picket line with those who had been fired (one quarter of the staff). The union called on the public to boycott the Boathouse. The strike and boycott were extremely effective. The public supported the strikers overwhelmingly. Literally thousands of guests turned away at the door when they spoke to the picketers. Word spread of the strike, and fewer and fewer people booked tables or functions. Despite huge crowds in the park, the restaurant, fast food, banquet and boat/bike rental businesses were devastated. Approximately 4,000 union members (on average, just under 100 per day) from other HTC union shops volunteered many hours of their time to help the strike, by joining the picket line, and leafletting throughout Central Park. Thousands of people wrote emails of support for the workers from 55 countries, and many members of other unions came and walked the picket line with us. Two weeks into the strike, management recognized the union as the collective bargaining representative of the Boathouse workers, and it took another month to win the union contract.

The Boathouse workers are happy to be back on the job and looking forward to working hard, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, with Dean Poll and Boathouse management, to make the restaurant a success once again. The members of our union are proud to welcome these workers into our ranks.