Union agreement shields Embassy Suites employees during temporary closure

NYHTC — July 12, 2011

The Embassy Suites in lower Manhattan closed for extensive renovations in January 2011, but thanks to an agreement negotiated between the union and the employer, the jobs, healthcare coverage, and contract rights of unionized Embassy Suites employees have been protected and improved.

The union organized the Embassy Suites in 2000. Goldman Sachs, the owner, closed it in January 2011. Renovations will likely take until the end of this year (and possibly into 2012) to complete. Then, the hotel will reopen as the Conrad New York, a sleek luxury property.

Typically when workplaces close, non-union workers, and sometimes even those who are union-represented, lose their jobs abruptly and whatever medical benefits they had, if any. This is not the case for former Embassy Suites workers represented by the Hotel Trades Council, because the agreement the union negotiated protects them from these devastating consequences.

For starters, every union-represented worker at the Embassy Suites, who wants to go back to work when the hotel reopens will have the right to do so. Until the hotel reopens, each will receive severance pay in the amount provided by the IWA (Industry-Wide Agreement) four days of regular wages for each year of employment. Tipped employees will receive twice that amount. In addition, they will all continue to receive medical coverage, paid for by the hotel, until they are recalled. Workers who do not want to be recalled have the option to collect enhanced severance pay equal to 19 days of regular wages for each year of service and six months of medical coverage, paid for by the hotel. That option is extremely attractive to employees who were planning to retire soon anyway.

When the hotel reopens, a significant number of new jobs will open up, which, according to the agreement, will be union jobs, staffed by workers in IWA-covered positions.

The new agreement includes many important improvements to the existing contract, including these provisions:

  • The owner and operator of the hotel effectively guarantee that employees who are represented by our union at the Conrad New York must enjoy better wages, benefits and conditions than employees at any non-union hotel in the New York City area owned or operated (currently or in the future) by the same company.
  • Room attendants and housekeeping attendants who complete their work will be permitted to leave early up to two hours before the end of their shifts and still receive a full day's pay.
  • Bell and door staff, including bell captains, will receive an increase of $1.00 per hour.
  • The hotel is required under the contract to respect each employee's right to privacy and cannot disclose any data or information about an employee unless s/he gives written authorization or law requires its disclosure.
  • The hotel cannot implement any technological change that would increase a bargaining unit employee's workload or otherwise change his/her terms and conditions of employment in a significant way without first negotiating with the union and obtaining its agreement to the change.
  • Any Conrad New York employee in an IWA job classification will have the right to return to his/her job after being on extended medical leave, with seniority intact, so long as they are not out more than 52 weeks. All the worker has to do is give the hotel a week's notice of her/his intention to return. In addition, a Conrad New York worker out for more than 52 weeks must be placed on the hotel's rehire list. So long as s/he is not out for more than 208 weeks, when ready to return, the worker must be offered the first available job in her/his job classification, and, upon acceptance, reinstated in his/her position with all seniority and job rights intact.
  • Looking ahead to the June 2012 expiration of the IWA, the agreement has a Me-Too provision that binds the hotel to all the terms of any successor agreement arrived at by the union and the Hotel Association.

Although the new agreement applies only to former Embassy Suites and Conrad New York bargaining unit employees, it still benefits all NYHTC-represented workers. In any given year, the union negotiates many agreements. Any new contract that improves on rights and benefits in the IWA or creates new ones makes the union stronger, strengthens its bargaining position overall, and gives the union more leverage in obtaining even better provisions in subsequent contracts, including the IWA.