Our union expands into New Jersey and Upstate

NYHTC — June 07, 2011

During the past six months, our union has assumed a major new role as the collective bargaining representative for more than 2,500 additional hotel and gaming workers in 32 shops in northern New Jersey and the Capital District of New York State (centered around the cities of Albany and Saratoga). This raises the membership of the Hotel Trades Council to approximately 30,000 and increases our power and influence over the industry.

HTC's role as the collective bargaining agent for these workers grew out of the mid-2010 agreement that resolved the 18-month long conflict within Unite Here. The disgraced President of that International Union, Bruce Raynor, triggered the dispute when he induced a group of his political cronies to secede from the union to avoid facing certain defeat in the next union election, betraying the union he had been elected to lead. Our members will remember that Raynor and his associates from part of the shrinking clothing workers sector of Unite Here invented a renegade organization, which they misnamed "Workers United," to provide Raynor with a job as its putative leader.

Those hotel workers in northern New Jersey and upstate New York were unfortunate victims of Raynor's machinations because they were among several thousand union members in the hotel industry Raynor attempted to force into his new organization by misusing his authority as President of Unite Here. Prior to seceding from Unite Here, Raynor had arranged for a number of Unite Here clothing-worker affiliates (i.e., Joint Boards), which were under his control, to swallow up certain local unions in Unite Here's hotel sector, including the local unions that had previously represented those hotel workers in northern New Jersey and the Capital District of upstate New York. The members of those two local unions (Local 96 in New Jersey and Local 471 upstate) had already suffered neglect even before the "Workers United" episode, as a result of bad leadership.

After the so-called "Workers United" merged with the Service Employees International Union, forming "SEIU/Workers United," it negotiated an agreement with Unite Here, settling the dispute and all litigation surrounding it. Pursuant to the terms of that agreement, "SEIU/Workers United" withdrew its claims to representing workers in the hotel and gaming industries.

HTC agreed to welcome these workers into our ranks for obvious reasons: their proximity to New York City, the fact that no other union is better equipped to represent them, and the considerable contribution they can make to the strength of our union.

HTC and its affiliate, Local 6, have assigned a joint team of some of their best leaders and staff to represent these new members, and to integrate them into HTC. That team is lead by HTC Regional Director Lynn Hoffard, and includes HTC Vice President George Padilla, Local 6 Vice President Rolando Ruiz, Local 6 Business Agents Kathy Hoang and Dustin Tasker, HTC Heat Supervisor Beatriz Torres, and RFO Pedro Llanos.

As a result of the events described above, contract and enforcement standards in the New Jersey and upstate shops are unacceptable. Moreover, as a result of previously weak union representation, management in some of these shops has been allowed to become arrogant and dismissive of the rights of union members. This will change quickly. Our union's first priority will be to negotiate improved contracts, to organize stronger rank-and-file leadership in the shops, and to provide proper and effective contract enforcement for our new members.