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Union Wins $500,000 in Back Pay for 44 Members at the New Yorker

Hotel Voice - February 24, 2014 Share/Save/Bookmark

An agreement between the Union and the New Yorker Hotel will result in raises and $500,000 in back pay, along with ironclad layoff protections for 44 current employees in building repairs/renovations and property operations. The employees overwhelmingly ratified the deal in a vote held on February 11, 2014.

The case has a long history. The Union filed grievances against the hotel regarding the violation of employees’ work preservation rights under both the industry-wide contract and a separate agreement that was signed by the Union and the hotel in August, 2004. Rather than complying with the agreement and negotiating with the Union, however, the hotel took a different route. It hired high-priced lawyers and seemingly challenged the Union in every way possible. The hotel refused to stop violating the industry-wide agreement and kept subcontracting out the work of members of our Union. The Union and the determined employees of the New Yorker met this challenge head on, resulting in two stunning back pay settlements.  

Many members will recall that while investigating the hotel’s use of subcontractors last year the Union learned that the New Yorker was engaging in unsafe construction that placed employees and guests at risk. An asbestos abatement project at the hotel was found to be taking place in violation of the law and in violation of the strong health and safety provisions in the contract that actually go beyond the measures in the law. Nevertheless, the hotel repeatedly refused to cease and abstain from these contract violations. Because these violations of the contract threatened the health and safety of members, the Union filed for emergency arbitration and was forced to call emergency meetings in the lobby of the hotel. The first emergency meeting was held on March 13 last year, ending when the arbitrator ordered all construction work in the hotel halted until a hearing was held the next week. Unfortunately, the hotel violated the arbitrator’s order almost immediately, forcing the Union to hold a second emergency meeting in the lobby of the New Yorker the next day, March 14, 2013.

In the end, the Union was extremely successful in the health and safety arbitration last year. The Union won additional health and safety language that further protects employees, and the hotel was required by the arbitrator to pay large sums of back pay and penalties for the egregious contract violations. In April, 2013, the Union employees at the New Yorker received $125,000 split equally among them — money that constituted a penalty against the hotel for such egregious violations of the contract.

While last year’s consent award accomplished much in the way of protecting the health and safety of the New Yorker employees and penalizing the hotel for its contract violations, the Union pressed on with its case regarding the subcontracting in the hotel that was costing Hotel Trades Council members work hours in violation of the contract.

This arbitration was complex and it required several hearings. The Union’s officers and legal team analyzed large sums of complicated documents, such as payroll and overtime records, building blue prints, lease agreements, and boxes full of evidence collected through the hard work of the employees. In the end, the Union again came out on top and negotiated an agreement that is extremely beneficial to the employees.

“This is proof that through the solidarity of members, the possibilities of what this Union can achieve are endless,” said Hotel Trades Council Grievance Manager Joseph Messineo. A look at the agreement bears this out. These are some of the highlights of the agreement that was reached and that was overwhelmingly approved by the workers on February 11:

● A total of $500,000 in back pay will be paid to current building repairs/renovations and property operations employees within fifteen (15) days from the effective date;

● All current building repairs/renovations and property operations employees will receive a $1.25 per hour wage increase;

● There is now ironclad “no layoff” language that requires management to seek approval from an arbitrator in the event of “unexpected emergencies” should the hotel wish to layoff current building repairs/renovations and property operations employees. The arbitrator’s decision cannot be based solely on financial reasons;

● There will be overtime pay for working on certain floors.

Most importantly, of course, all workers at the New Yorker Hotel now have a much safer and healthier place to work and should continue to be treated with the dignity and respect that they—and all members of our Union—so rightfully deserve.

“The Union has won major victories against contract violations at the New Yorker Hotel, and they cost management plenty of money,” Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward said. “We view issues like health and safety and subcontracting very seriously, as we should, and hopefully what happened at the New Yorker should serve as a warning to any other hotels that are considering violating the contract.”

Ward also had high praise for the employees of the New Yorker and the Union’s legal team.

“This was not an easy case to pursue,” he said. “There were complex issues requiring great detail and there were countless documents to pore over, but our Union’s legal team was up to the task.”

Ward added, “Our members at the New Yorker were also up to the task. Their solidarity was inspirational and their commitment to defending the contract was exemplary. We all worked together to earn this victory.”

Peter Ward signing the agreement between the New Yorker Hotel and the Union. Looking on are Hotel Trades Council General Counsel Rich Maroko and Grievance Manager Joseph Messineo.

One of the emergency Union meetings in the lobby of the New Yorker Hotel.

Peter Ward meeting with New Yorker delegates at the arbitrator’s office in 2013.