Union victory at the Renaissance Meadowlands

Hotel Voice, Fall 2023

Our Union won first contracts for over 500 non-union workers this year. In every case, we were able to reach an agreement without a strike or a picket line, even though, at many of these hotels, management fought us every step of the way.

Management at the Renaissance Meadowlands in Rutherford, New Jersey made an especially aggressive attempt to avoid our Union — and failed. It’s a story worth sharing.

We have a long history with the management company

Aimbridge Hospitality manages a number of union hotels where the contract includes card check neutrality: an agreement that forbids the company from running an anti-union campaign at any of their other hotels in the region.

In 2022, the Union started a strategic campaign to organize workers across Aimbridge Hospitality’s properties. It was instantly clear that the company had no intention of complying with the neutrality agreement: they held anti-union meetings, failed to provide information to the Union, colluded with hotel owners to break their management agreements in order to avoid the Union, unilaterally implemented wage increases, and even called the police on Union organizers.

But our organizers, lawyers, and the workers at these shops refused to let them win. The Renaissance Meadowlands marks our 14th GRIWA contract at a current or former Aimbridge-operated hotel.

The anti-union campaign

The General Manager at Renaissance Meadowlands began running an anti-union campaign immediately after HTC notified the hotel that organizers would be coming to talk to workers.

“I started at the Renaissance in October 2022. It was understaffed, managers called out all the time, the workload was huge ... it was a very stressful environment,” shared Tiffany Brown, Front Desk Supervisor. “So, when I heard the Union would be coming, I rallied the front office. I said, this is the best way to put in structure and hold these managers accountable.”

Workers report that the GM held captive audience meetings, where he claimed the Union offered no benefits and would force new employees to leave the hotel.

Managers interrogated workers for the names of union supporters and then retaliated against the supporters by issuing write-ups, assigning them more check-outs, and cutting their hours.

Tiffany Brown was one of the workers interrogated by management: “They called me in and accused me of trying to flip the whole hotel for the Union. I said, I don’t feel like my team is being taken care of, so I’m taking it upon myself to make sure we’re ok.”

Union organizers started meeting with the workers secretly — in parking lots, in bus stations, and in their homes — to teach them their legal rights, help them build enough support among their coworkers, and share how life-changing it could be to win a union contract.

“After meeting with the organizers, I started a little campaign talking to people in other departments,” said Tiffany. “I told everyone, we're going to benefit from this.”

After two months, workers in the Housekeeping, Engineering, Front Desk, and Food & Beverage departments all successfully won union recognition.

Last ditch effort

Over the following months, Union negotiators reached a tentative agreement with Aimbridge. They agreed to sign the GRIWA contract. Unfortunately, the fight didn’t end there.

In a final, desperate attempt to avoid signing the Union’s contract, the hotel’s owner attempted to break their management agreement with Aimbridge. Doing so would have meant the Union had to restart negotiations from square one.

The Union’s lawyers filed an emergency hearing at the arbitrator’s office, where they argued that Aimbridge has a pattern of aiding hotel owners in breaking their management agreements when our Union shows up in order to shed the hotel and avoid unionization. The arbitrator agreed, issuing an interim bench award prohibiting Aimbridge from leaving the Renaissance any sooner than scheduled.

10 days to sign

On September 20, 2023, because of the company’s "gross violation of the law,” the arbitrator issued his ruling: the owner was bound to the contract the Union had negotiated with Aimbridge and had to sign it within 10 days — or face steep penalties.

In a significant legal victory for our Union, and a very personal victory for the workers at the Renaissance, the owners gave in and signed the contract. Days later, on October 4th, the workers unanimously ratified the new contract — gaining job security, significant raises, access to affordable healthcare, a pension plan, and much, much more.

“On that day, I felt relieved and overwhelmed. This is what I fought for all those months, and we were finally able to reap the benefits,” said Tiffany Brown.

“Everyone’s mood is much different now. People are using the retro pay to pay off loans, they can actually afford their healthcare now. Everyone is happier — happier to do the work because they’re being compensated for it. They know the Union will protect us if management doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain."