A Report from HTC President Rich Maroko

June 9, 2021 4:15 PM, Hotel Voice, Summer 2021

Our nation has started its recovery from this devastating pandemic. It all began this past winter, when the FDA approved three vaccines for COVID-19, all of which bring the risk of hospitalization and death close to zero. Over the last six months, there has been a national effort to vaccinate the American people, which has already saved countless lives and spared us from more unnecessary grief and suffering. I believe that when we look back at this difficult period in our lives, we will recognize these vaccines as the key to bringing an end to this crisis and resuming our normal lives.

As I write to you, over 295 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to Americans. As a result, our region is slowly coming back to life and with it, the tourism industry is gradually reopening. Dozens of union hotels have announced soft reopenings this summer and over 60% of our members in the casinos have already been recalled. 

Over the last several months, our Union has used its political clout – built by the thousands of members who mobilized voters, came to rallies, and spoke up for important legislation over the last 15 years – to advocate for our members as New York and New Jersey have started recovering. 

Our top priorities have been:

  • First and foremost, to ensure that the growing numbers of members back at work remain safe.
  • Second, to secure early access to the COVID-19 vaccine for our members working on the front lines and to set up an efficient operation to distribute the vaccines at our Union’s health centers.
  • Third, to push our allies in the United States Congress to provide more relief for workers, including free healthcare and extended un-employment supplements. 
  • Fourth, to continue to assist our laid off members with issues rang-ing from unemployment benefits to finding affordable healthcare after losing their union insurance. 
  • Fifth, to enforce our contracts and guarantee that our members will return to good, union jobs as the industry recovers.
  • Finally, to get out the vote for pro-worker politicians and make sure that our Union has the power we need to fight for our members at City Hall in the years ahead.

I am proud to say that we have been successful in each of these areas. I want to thank each and every member who has helped achieve these goals: everyone who has knocked on doors and phone banked for Union-endorsed candidates this spring, who has spent time on the phones helping their Union brothers and sisters with unemployment and COBRA, and who has enforced our contracts on the shop floor. Without our active, loyal, and militant membership, none of our successes over the last 16 months would have been possible.

HTC President Rich Maroko gets his first shot of the Moderna Vaccine at the Harlem Health Center on April 20th.


Our Union’s efforts to make sure hotel workers were included among those essential, front line workers who would get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine began before the first vaccine even had FDA approval last winter.

By early March, we convinced the Governors of New York and New Jersey to both agree to recognize hotel workers as essential workers and make them eligible to receive the vaccine before the general public. A week later, we got the hotel industry, which has continued to struggle financially, to pay $2.5 million to reopen the health centers in Harlem and Brooklyn and recall medical staff to distribute the vaccine. And finally, over the next weeks, we persuaded New York City to increase the number of vaccines (which were very scarce at the time) going to our health centers to be used for our members and their families. All of this took tremendous effort, which you can read about in more detail here.

As this edition of the Hotel Voice goes to print, our health centers have distributed over 12,000 of these life saving vaccines and we will soon have access to hundreds of vaccines for children ages 12 to 17. If you want to sign up or sign up your dependents, click here.

And for those of you who are on the fence, I strongly encourage you to consider getting vaccinated. Our Benefit Funds’ has published a Q&A about the vaccine in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Polish, Bengali, Arabic, Twi, Albanian, and Tibetan on hotelfunds.org

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined over 100 HTC members on May 10th to celebrate the partial reopening of the Brooklyn health center. The American Rescue Plan could not have passed without Senator Schumer’s leadership in the Senate.


Through a series of tough negotiations and arbitration hearings, our Union extended healthcare for our laid off members for the entirety of 2020. When this emergency extension came to an end, very few laid off members could afford to pay the cost to continue their union health coverage under COBRA. That’s one of the reasons we had to temporarily close the Harlem and Brooklyn health centers, and many members ended up having to get alternate, lower quality health insurance or go without any coverage.

When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in early March, it solved this problem – and many others – for working families across the country. Under the remarkable new law, in large part due to our ally Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the federal government agreed to pay for eligible laid off workers to get their union healthcare back from April 1st through September 30th. This meant that thousands of our members and their families could return to using our Union’s health centers, for free.

As of print, nearly 10,000 members and their families already have. As a result, we started to reopen the Brooklyn health center with limited services on May 3rd and we hope to be able to partially reopen the Harlem health center very soon. Read more about how to enroll in free COBRA here.


In September 2020, our Union won the right for our temporarily laid off members to receive emergency severance “bridge payments” to supplement their unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 crisis – to the tune of $370 million – without losing their right to be recalled to work. This emergency income was a lifeline for our laid off members, but weekly severance bridge payments were nearing an end for many when the American Rescue Plan was passed in March. The new law extended unemployment and the $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement for 25 weeks, through September 6, 2021.

There is much more to say about the American Rescue Plan. The legislation is far more than a relief bill, it is the largest investment in working people in our nation’s history. It was passed with a single deciding vote in the Senate (every Republican Senator voted against it) and it would not have been possible without the leadership of our friend, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Senate and without on-the-ground efforts by our Union and many others to elect President Joe Biden and Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia. Read more about what it took here.

HTC Member Petruta Muset from the Intercontinental Times Square gets out the vote for Eric Adams, our Union’s choice for NYC mayor.


This year is also a vitally important election year in New York City. Every major seat in New York City government is open, with elections for mayor, borough presidents, and the entire City Council. The winners will oversee the City’s economic recovery from COVID-19, including efforts to promote tourism and help the hotel industry rebound. It is absolutely critical that we elect leaders who will prioritize the needs of working people – and our members – during this transition, whether that be protecting our union jobs, supporting our strikes and picket lines, or creating a fairer economy for working families.

For mayor, I strongly believe that leader is Eric Adams. As I explain in more detail here, Adams has been a loyal ally of our Union for years. He has reliably backed every major policy item presented by our Union and we can count on him to stand with us in the years ahead. He also has a wealth of experience, having served 22 years in the NYPD before serving in the State Senate and then as Brooklyn Borough President.

Our Union has endorsed our friend and current City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for comptroller. We also endorsed Mark Levine for Manhattan Borough President and Donovan Richards for Queens Borough President, in addition to 41 City Council candidates. You can find a full list of our endorsements here.

I ask each of you who live in New York City to vote for these Union-backed candidates, and to get your family and friends out to the polls too. Make sure to read about how to cast your ballot using NYC’s new voting system. And if you can, please consider volunteering with us to get out the vote in the final days before the June 22 Primary. Many of these elections will be won with very small margins, and every volunteer makes a difference. Visit hotelworkers.org/gotv2021 or call the HEAT Department at (212) 245-8100, mailbox #2 to sign up for any one of the upcoming phone banks, rallies, and canvassing dates before election day. 

In January 2021, our Union won a historic organizing drive at the oldest and biggest non-union hotel the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The victory marked the end of a 35 year union avoidance campaign.


This pandemic has shone a spotlight on why it is so important for workers to have a union. Tens of thousands of non-union hotel workers in New York and New Jersey have suffered horribly over the last 15 months – losing their benefits at the height of the virus’s spread in the New York City area, working in unsafe conditions, and even losing their jobs as their employers decide to outsource their work. Today, non-union hotel workers are still living in limbo without any guarantee that they will be recalled to work when business bounces back.

Hundreds of non-union workers have decided to change this by organizing with our Union. At the Marriott Marquis – the largest and oldest non-union hotel in the City – the housekeeping department joined our Union after 35 years. At the Marriott Downtown, over 100 workers also jumped at the opportunity to organize after working for 30 years non-union. Read more about these historic campaigns here.

In April and May, workers at another seven hotels in New Jersey and Westchester won union representation. Our newest members work at the Sonesta Simply Suites Somerset, Sonesta Select Mahwah, Sonesta White Plans, Sonesta Select Whippany, Sonesta ES Suites South Brunswick, Courtyard by Marriott Tarrytown Westchester County, and the Hilton Garden Inn Edison Raritan Center.


As I’ve cautioned before, the reopening of the hotel and gaming industries will be gradual, and likely much slower than other industries to fully bounce back. For the remainder of 2021, the recovery is going to be driven primarily by domestic leisure travelers because of international travel restrictions and because business travel continues to lag. Experts predict that 36.6 million tourists will visit New York City this year, which is about 50% of the number of visitors in 2019.

In an effort to accelerate travel, Mayor de Blasio (at the urging of our Union) signed an Executive Order eliminating the hotel occupancy tax for guests this summer and the City is spending $30 million on ads. These two actions are specifically targeted toward bringing back leisure travel, and bringing it back early.

Finally, as more of our members are re-called and our staff is fully vaccinated, I have decided to reopen the Union’s office at 709 8th Avenue starting on Monday, June 21st. All Union staff, including Business Agents, HEAT Representatives, Dues, and Hiring Enforcement will begin working full-time, in-person at our headquarters. For the safety of everyone, to start, in-person meetings will be by appointment only and safety protocols will be strictly enforced.I look forward to seeing many of you there again soon. Until then, please stay safe.

In Solidarity, 

Rich Maroko

President of the Hotel Trades Council