The GRIWA is Expiring: What to Expect

The Union’s current Greater Regional Industry Wide Agreement will expire on March 31 and we expect negotiations for a successor contract to be tough. Above, Servers Terry Whitaker and Kayla Frenyea at the Hilton Albany study the GRIWA together
In a massive, years-long effort, our Union fought to win a single master contract that would cover the industry outside of New York City. Today, that contract – the GRIWA – covers 83 union hotels and casinos. Above, Business Agent Nick Ruiz reviews the GRIWA with a member at the New Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey.
Our Union has been preparing for these negotiations for over twelve years by negotiating a single master contract, organizing in order to increase our union density in the region, and building a political program from scratch. Above, Aristeo Herrera, Encore at the Newark Labor Day Parade in September.

February 24, 2023 5:04 PM

On March 31, 2023, the current Greater Regional Industry Wide Agreement (the “GRIWA”) will expire. The Union’s leadership expects the upcoming negotiations for a successor contract to be tough. Bargaining is beginning while the hotel industry is only just starting to get back to pre-pandemic business levels. At a time when the industry has less money than ever, we are going to insist on more - we will be demanding more money to raise wages, more money to preserve our healthcare benefits, and more money to secure our retirement benefits. 

This means we must be ready to use every pressure point at our disposal.


The Union has been preparing for this moment for more than a decade. Back in 2010, the now defunct unions representing hotel workers in New Jersey, the suburbs of New York City, and the Albany and Capital District were falling apart, bargaining concessions and growing weaker. Our Union was called upon to take over.

The Union’s leadership set out to replicate the three cornerstones of strength that we had in New York City:

• First, to create a single master contract that would cover the entire industry in the greater region,

• Second, to organize and raise our union density outside of New York City, and

• Third, to build a political program in order to protect our members’ jobs and maximize our leverage at the negotiating table. 

The plan was: if we could achieve those three elements, combined, they would give us the bargaining power we needed to improve wages and benefits throughout the region. 

In a massive, years-long effort, we also worked to empower and organize our newest members and to negotiate major improvements into the nearly three dozen weak contracts we had inherited. Through painstaking negotiations, we transformed minimum-wage, exploitative jobs with few benefits into secure, middle-class jobs that now allow our members to save money, raise families, buy houses, send their kids to college, start their own businesses, travel, and retire. We won affordable healthcare benefits–cutting costs by hundreds of dollars at hotels and casinos where only a handful of workers (if that) were previously able to afford the plans offered by their employers. And beyond wages and benefits, our Union provided job security, steady schedules, more paid time off, enhanced safety protections, and the ability to demand fair treatment and respect for the first time. 

These new contract standards ultimately came together as the basis for the first ever regional master hotel contract: the GRIWA. In 2013, we signed and ratified the first GRIWA at just four hotels. Today, the GRIWA covers 83 properties.

At the Resorts World Catskills, EVS Attendants Elizabeth Gonzalez, Elizabeth Santos, Renee Murray, Jolene McKeirnan and Stacy Henry proudly show off their union gear.
HTC President Rich Maroko at a rally in Newark, New Jersey to announce our Union’s support of NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s re-election campaign.


We also got to work organizing the non-union industry outside of New York City. Through organizing, we have strengthened one of our most powerful chips at the bargaining table: our high union density. Density is the percentage of hotel rooms in the region that are in union hotels (vs. non-union). The higher our density, the more power we have in negotiations. It is harder for hotel operators to reject our demands if we are making their competitors pay and do the same.

As Union density is stagnant or declining in many areas across the country, in New Jersey and the NYC suburbs, it’s growing – with some cities going from having zero union hotels to having higher density than New York City!


Our Union also started a political program in New Jersey and New York from scratch, mobilizing our members to canvass, phone bank, attend rallies, lobby, and vote. The results have been remarkable.

In 2021 and 2022, HTC members were instrumental in getting out the vote for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York Governor Kathy Hochul. As a result, the most powerful leader in each state is someone we can count on to support the labor movement and our Union, should we need it during negotiations.

We’ve also been instrumental in passing a number of key pieces of legislation, including:

Requirements for daily room cleanings: Early in the COVID-19 crisis, New Jersey outlawed the elimination of daily room cleanings, protecting hotel worker jobs – union and non-union alike – as the hospitality industry did the opposite, cleaning only check-out rooms and slashing the jobs of tens of thousands of room attendants across the country.

Labor peace agreements: New Jersey and New York both now require labor peace agreements for any state-subsidized hotel and casino development.

A ban on subcontracting in Newark and North Bergen, New Jersey: This ordinance prohibits hotels in the cities of Newark and North Bergen from outsourcing hotel work to subcontracting agencies, which are some of the worst and most abusive employers.

A state-wide worker retention law: This New Jersey law guarantees job security for hotel workers (union and non-union) in the event their property is sold or undergoes a change in management.

Help for casinos: Our Union has played a large role in passing legislation in New York State that helped the gaming industry where thousands of our members work. We backed a proposal to reduce the tax rate for Upstate casinos, making them more competitive and financially stable so that we could negotiate for higher wages. We also supported a push to speed up table games licenses for up to three casinos in the New York City region, which could provide thousands of new job opportunities for workers in the city.

And most notably–consumer protection laws in New Jersey and Albany, New York: These laws may sound bureaucratic, but they will be critical in the event we need to put up a picket line. The laws require that hotels now notify guests ahead of time and offer full refunds in the event of a union strike or picket line. This will make our picket lines exponentially more effective and virtually guarantees that hotels will lose more business during a fight. Hotel managers and operators know this, and it’s terrifying. The more real and powerful our threat of a strike, the more likely hotels are to negotiate a fair deal with us.


Not least of all, we have worked to unify, mobilize, and empower our members outside of New York City. The biggest key to our Union’s power and success has always been our members and their courage to fight to defend and improve their union contracts, as well as those of their union brothers and sisters. Over the past five years, even through the height of the pandemic, thousands of you have volunteered at events, kept a close watch on management, enforced the contract in your shops, and maintained our Union’s strength in small day-to-day actions like wearing your union pin and signing up to receive union alerts.

Many of you may be asking, what can you do to support the Union during negotiations?

1. Stay vigilant in your shop. Our members are usually the first to know what management is up to. Watch them for contract violations, unfair labor practices (which includes any unilateral changes to your working conditions), or anything fishy–and report it to your Delegate, Business Agent, or HEAT Representative. It’s always important to watch management, but especially during contract negotiations.

2. Sign the Union’s petition in sup-port of NJ bill S3215. This February, the New Jersey State Senate will vote on a bill that dramatically improves the rights of workers to collect unemployment benefits during a strike. The success of the bill couldn’t come at a more critical time for us. Sign your name to help make sure it passes: contact-your-new-jersey-senator.

3. Get to know your HEAT Representative. HEAT stands for Hotel Employees Action Team. It’s our system for keeping members well-organized and united. Your HEAT Representative’s role is to inform you of Union events and to build strength and unity in your shop. Give them a call, introduce yourself, and make sure they have the right contact information for you.

4. Sign up for union alerts. Text alerts are the best way for us to keep our 40,000 members up to date about union news, victories, and now, negotiations. If you are not receiving texts from the Union, sign up here:

5. Come out to union events. When you hear about union events, spread the word to your coworkers and come out together. When we show out in force to rallies, events, and–if needed–open negotiations, it reminds management just how powerful we are.

6. Fill out the member survey. This survey helps the Union’s leadership understand your financial concerns, priorities, and experience, and will help guide the Union’s work when negotiating contracts, representing members, and setting priorities for the Union in the years ahead.

7. Wear your union pin. Your pin re-minds management that you’re part of a strong, united, 40,000-person organization. Talk to your Delegate or your HEAT Representative if you don’t have a pin. 

The GRIWA changed the game for hospitality workers in New Jersey and New York State, providing wages, benefits, and protections previously unseen outside of New York City. As the Union leadership negotiates with the hotel industry again and fights to extend these protections and win even more, it’s more important than ever that each of you stay connected. Our Union’s strength starts and ends with you.