NJ and Upstate delegates spend the day in NYC

NYHTC — June 07, 2011



During a day of activity, 95 of our newer delegates saw firsthand some of the impressive things NYHTC leaders and activists have accomplished on behalf of the 30,000 workers the Hotel Trades Council represents. When the day was over, delegates carried back to their shops an understanding of the process that makes these remarkable accomplishments possible. Equally important, they had learned how and where they and their coworkers fit into that vital process and that they are now an integral part of our union.

It was a first visit to the union's headquarters for almost all of these delegates. Their shops are located throughout northern New Jersey and the area of the New York Capital District centered around Albany and Saratoga. (See Historic step for our union: expansion upstate and in northern New Jersey.) They and their coworkers are among the more than 2,500 hotel and gaming workers the New York Hotel Trades Council now represents in those regions.

The delegates were welcomed with breakfast in the union auditorium. During it, they met and talked with delegates from other new shops. They also spoke with their union business agents and with other staff members whom they had not previously met.

HTC Regional Director Lynn Hoffard, who heads the staff representing these members, welcomed the delegates to their union and laid out the day's program of activities. She explained how important it was for them to see for themselves what Hotel Trades Council members have accomplished through the strength of their numbers, their commitment to the union, and their determination.



She announced the Hotel Trades Council had already succeeded in negotiating its first collective bargaining agreement with one of these new shops, the Sheraton Mahwah and that it was an outstanding contract, even when measured against the high standards of existing NYHTC contracts. (For a detailed description of the Sheraton Mahwah contract, see HTC negotiates first contract in New Jersey.) Hoffard explained the union had already been able to realize major gains for the workers because it already represents many workers in numerous Sheraton hotels, including some of their largest and most profitable. Its corporate executives and lawyers know from past contract negotiations with our union that we negotiate hard and are always well-prepared.

Hoffard then introduced HTC President Peter Ward. Ward gave the workers a concise history of the union. He detailed the excellent medical and dental care NYHTC-represented workers enjoy under the terms of the Industry-Wide Agreement (and which is available to spouses, domestic partners, and other eligible dependents, as well as retirees and their spouses; he then contrasted it with the inadequate benefits their existing contracts provide.

Ward reminded the delegates that however much they might desire improvements in workplace benefits and conditions, such gains would count for little if managers did not treat them with respect and as equals. He recounted recent instances in which the union has had managers who made racist or sexist remarks to members fired. He made absolutely clear our union will not tolerate any such contact and managers all managers must treat our members with the utmost dignity and respect.

Ward told the delegates much needed to be done in their workplaces because their contracts, inferior to begin with, had not been aggressively enforced and managers were not accustomed to respecting either the contracts or the workers. He cautioned them them that while this had to change, it would not happen immediately or automatically and would not happen at all if they did not do in their shops what NYHTC members have been doing for generations: turning themselves and their coworkers into union leaders and activists, and working on a daily basis, on every shift, in their respective shops, to build a strong union in their workplace.

The bottom line of his message to the delegates was straightforward and clear: big and fundamental changes do not come without hard work on the part of delegates and other union members but if you are ready and willing to do it, the union will work with you every step of the way to bring these much-needed fundamental changes about.

After Ward's remarks, the delegates boarded buses taking them to the first of their three afternoon activities, a meeting at the Harlem Health Center with Dr. Robert Greenspan, the Chief Executive Officer of the New York Hotel Trades Council and the Hotel Association of New York City, Inc., Employee Benefit Funds. Dr. Greenspan explained the comprehensive medical, dental, and other benefits available to members under the terms of the Industry-Wide Agreement. The delegates then toured the facility in small groups that enabled them to ask questions about the facility and the wide ranges of services available there.

After that, it was back on the buses for the a trip to the Industry Training Program (ITP) facility in Long Island City, Queens. The delegates were again given small group tours of the facility and learned of the various classes offered in air-conditioning/refrigeration, boiler, electrical, plumbing, computer skills, and food service and preparation all available on-site in specially fitted-out classrooms and work areas. Eligible NYHTC-represented workers can take advantage of them to improve their job skills, prepare for a job classification change, or become proficient in a new skill.



At the ITP center, a buffet lunch was waiting for the delegates in the facility's dining room. The food had been beautifully prepared in its restaurant-caliber training kitchen by union members enrolled in ITP's year-long tournant (food preparation) course. The cooks-in-training work under the direct guidance of Chef Pablo Trobo, the Funds's Food and Beverage Manager and Chief Instructor. (Readers may be interested to know that Chef Trobo is a former member of our union.) The lunch menu that day consisted of carrot butternut soup, skewers of chicken Satay, and three different varieties of salads, sandwiches, and cookies.

The last event of the day was the rally at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. The delegates and union staff members who had spent the day with them joined the throngs pouring into the park late that afternoon. The atmosphere was electric and became even more so the closer one got to the Boathouse and the louder the union chants and cheers became.

Some 1,500 NYHTC members turned out to show the Boathouse workers they supported them in their fight to become represented by the New York Hotel Trades Council. "Keep Our Park Clean/Dump Dean" signs and t-shirts were everywhere, including on politicians who came and expressed their solidarity with the Boathouse workers.

Many of the delegates from the new shops looked wonderingly at the masses of union members who had come, some with their families, to show their support for the Boathouse workers. They realized these workers were fighting hard to become members of the powerful union to which they themselves now belonged. They listened attentively as Boathouse workers told of their struggles and important politicians pledged their support to them and to the union. They listened when Local 6 President Jim Donovan told the crowd he wanted the Boathouse workers to see what a great union and great members we have. And when Jim asked the big crowd of union members if they would be there to picket with the Boathouse workers if they voted to strike, the new delegates heard their union sisters and brothers roar out, "Yes! Yes!"

When the rally ended, the delegates headed for the buses that would take them back home; for a number of them, it would be a 14- or 15-hour day. But they had covered a lot of ground in the course of that day and learned a lot about their union and what it means to be represented by the New York Hotel Trades Council.

Walking to the bus with her coworkers from the HIlton Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, banquet server Lorrie Hagadorn said, "Before today, I had no idea how it felt to be a member of a strong union. Now, after today, I've seen the power and I know what it feels like. I know we won't be alone anymore if we should have to go on strike."