“UNION YES!” at the Park South Hotel – HTC Wins with 88% of the Vote

July 23, 2015

On  July 23, 2015, Housekeeping, Bell/Door, Front Desk, and Engineering workers at the Park South Hotel (on Park Avenue South and 28th Street) voted 38-5 to be represented by the Hotel Trades Council in a union authorization election conducted by the U.S. Government.

NOTE: On 7/28/2015 workers at the Strand Hotel followed the example of the Park South workers and voted by an even great majority, 45 to 4, in favor of authorizing the Hotel Trades Council as their bargaining representative. Read more...

Non-union conditions at the Park South

The 141-room hotel has been non-union since it opened in 2001. Workers came to union headquarters in May because they wanted good health insurance, respectful treatment, job security, a voice at work, and a fair and effective mechanism to resolve their grievances with management.

Currently, Park South employees must pay approximately $60 per week for individual coverage under the employer’s substandard health plan and approximately $150 per week for family coverage. So, very few can afford to get family coverage. Wages are significantly lower than the minimum rates under HTC’s Industry-Wide Agreement, and the workers have no enforceable protections regarding scheduling, workloads, health and safety, and disrespectful and unfair treatment by some managers.

Many workers also want the option to participate in the Union’s pension plan with pension credits for their past years of service. Engineer, Tony Luo explains, “I’ve been at the Park South for 13 years and getting credit for those years toward a pension would really change my future for the better.”

Management’s anti-union campaign

In an unfortunate but typical knee-jerk reaction, Park South management immediately launched an aggressive anti-union campaign after the Union filed for the election with the Labor Board.

From that moment, the owners, managers, supervisors, and other agents of the owners started pressuring the employees to vote “NO.” Employees were forced to sit through “captive audience” meetings and hear threats and dishonest anti-union propaganda, and this continued every day until the election. At the same time, owners and managers tried to portray the hotel as one big happy family and told workers that voting for union representation to better their conditions was the same as betraying the family. The same message was also delivered by the owners and managers in countless “one-on-one” conversations and small group meetings.

Park South Houseman, Edgar Gonzalez had this to say about the anti-union campaign: “Management did and said exactly what the union organizers told us they would do and say.”

Yitbarek Desta agreed: “The Union prepared us for management’s anti-union campaign, and none of us were fooled by it.” Note: In a heroic act of solidarity with his co-workers, Desta, who suffered a heart attack last week, insisted on discharging himself from the hospital prematurely in order to go to the hotel to cast his “YES” vote.

Samantha Coughlin, HTC Senior Organizer, and the lead organizer for the Park South campaign commented, “These workers should be proud of themselves – they stayed united and today they took a big step toward winning an HTC union contract.”

Next: the Strand

The owners of the Park South own another hotel in Manhattan – the Strand on 37th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and HTC is organizing that one too. In fact, the union authorization election is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28. Samantha Coughlin is also in charge of the team organizing the Strand.

Management has engaged in the same anti-union tactics at the Strand that they used at the Park South, and the workers at the Strand are just as strong.

Chief Organizing Supervisor for HTC, Julia Rybak, states: “We expect to win the Strand election on Tuesday by a large margin as well.”

HTC President Peter Ward commented: “The 35,000 members of our Union welcome the Park South workers to our ranks and hopefully next week the Strand workers too. Our entire membership and staff stand ready to help the workers at both the Strand and the Park South win contracts we can all be proud of.”

NOTE: On 7/28/2015 workers at the Strand Hotel voted by an even great majority, 45 to 4, in favor of authorizing the Hotel Trades Council as their bargaining representative. Read more...