New contracts, new lives

Hotel Voice, Fall 2023

Hear from five of our newest members on how their lives have changed since winning a Union contract this year.

"I’ve been working in the hotels since 2016. I’ve been trying to join the union since then. This year, finally, I did. I’ve been showing my contract to all the people I know who work at non-union places and telling them, come and try to join the union.

Our pay increase was huge. Everyone was like, 'WOW!' But the healthcare is the biggest thing for me. I was on the hotel’s insurance and I had a small surgery, and they sent me a huge bill that still I’m trying to fight. But now I’m on the Union plan. I went to the health center and did a dental appointment and a full body checkup, all for free."

"The Union came in a few months after the casino opened. Everybody said yes — we wanted the union.

When we got the contract, across the board, everything improved. More time off, prepaid legal, the healthcare is phenomenal ... and the raise. That was a big difference, about $400 extra every month after taxes. I’m a homeowner, so there’s always projects to do. I was able to redo my garage — make it like a man cave.

I’m 61, and this healthcare is better than I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve spoken to coworkers who’ve had major procedures this year with little to no cost.

On top of the pay, the benefits — the contract gives us all a sense of job security. If you work at a place without a union, there’s no one to keep management in check. It’s easy for them to fire you. Now, I’m a delegate, and if management wants to terminate someone, I have to be in the room. Then we contact the Business Agent and find out if it was just cause. In my short time here, I’ve already seen the Union bring back people who were unfairly fired. That’s important."

"I started working at the Night Hotel five years ago. I had been here in the country for three months looking for work, and couldn’t find anything. I met someone on the train who told me about the job, I interviewed, and I got it. I started at $13.50 an hour. The insurance plan they offered was $200 a week. Nobody working there could afford it. We had to get insurance from the government.

We had an 18 room quota. Sometimes we’d have 15 checkouts. If we didn’t finish on time, we had to stay late — and we were never paid for the extra hours. The managers disrespected us, yelled at us, rushed us. I had to take on a second job cleaning houses to afford my rent. This was the oppression we lived with before the Union contract.

Eventually, we filled ourselves with courage and contacted HTC.

We got the contract the next year. That was the best feeling, getting this thing, this contract, that backs you up, that increases the pay, that gives you the best health insurance — that says you are now free.

Now I leave when my shift is over, or I get overtime. Now I can tell the manager to give me what I’m owed, or I call the Union. We’re not animals to them anymore, we’re humans. Everything is reversed. Everything is different.

I quit my second job. I have more time to spend with my daughters. I have teenagers. They say, you know, Mommy I want to go shopping! For a long time that wasn’t possible. Now, it is. I can give them what they want. I can afford the rent, I can save for retirement. I’m good. My family is good."

"I started at the Park Hyatt in 2014. It was $17 an hour, with no vacation time, and the pay wasn't enough for us to afford insurance. The managers were racist to us, very demanding. If we spoke up, they would retaliate.

Two years later, the rest of the hotel became Union. We saw they had gotten a radical change in benefits and in how they were treated. We saw that the Union could validate our rights as humans, as workers. So, my coworkers and I contacted the Union. We had to sign cards, and it took a long time, because people were fearful. They feared that management would find out and fire us.

We got the contract in August, and everything is better. The pay basically doubled. Now we have free medical, free dental. It felt like a weight had fallen from our shoulders. We couldn’t believe it — it was a moment of shock to see the pay, the benefits, everything. There were tears in my eyes. I’m going to be able to afford a house for my family now. I’m finally able to start saving for that."

"When I started at the Ritz Carlton, the job paid minimum wage, and we had to do a lot of things outside of our job description — running multiple blocks to go get things for guests, helping customers at the bar.

People were speculating about the hotel becoming union from the beginning. I worked at a Union hotel before, so I knew there’s really no disadvantages to joining the union, because it’s always going to go in your favor; be it your pay, be it your benefits. You get to have Union representation and a fair and equal work environment.

The day the organizers came to the hotel to get cards signed, I was out. But I went to the Union office the next day to make sure I signed the card.

Now we have the contract, management treats us with more respect than they did before — and it’s our Union delegates who are inspiring that respect."