A Message from Union President Rich Maroko

August 18, 2020 12:11 PM

In his first address to the Union membership, HTC President Rich Maroko provides important updates about recall rights, the Coronavirus Safety Protocol agreement, and the recent healthcare extension. President Maroko lays out his outlook regarding the future of our Union: “I have no doubt that we will face and overcome these challenges with the tenacity and courage, united as we’ve always done. I promise you that I’ll give you everything I have to confronting this crisis, and I’m confident that we will beat this, just as we have prevailed in so many fights against vicious employers, and we will come out a stronger Union because of it.”

Read the full transcript below.

Para leer la transcripción del vídeo en español, haga clic aquí.

點擊此處閱讀字幕的中文版本。

[00:00:00]:

Rich Maroko, President of Hotel Trades Council: As you know, I was appointed last week to fill the positions of President of the Hotel Trades Council and Business Manager of Local 6 which were vacated by the well deserved retirement of Peter Ward. It was the greatest honor of my professional life to be asked to become President of our Union. And I was flattered by the vote of confidence from the officers, Executive Board, and Delegate Assembly. But I’m sure like most of you, I find it hard to imagine our Union without Peter’s steady leadership. Particularly at a time like this when we are facing the most serious threat in our Union’s history and in the history of the hospitality industry. I’m addressing the membership as President to assure you that I and the entire Union leadership and staff are working and fighting hard to protect your rights and your interests. I’m also going to report to you not only on what we’re doing but on my honest assessment of the situation, both as it exists today and as it evolves.

[00:01:00]:

And I intend to continue doing so throughout the crisis. The bottom line is that the situation today is dire for the industry and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Over 90% of our members are on layoff, more than 120 hotels are completely closed and those that remain open are running on occupancy at less than 50% of where we were last year. All of the casinos remain closed by order of the state. And most of the leading industry analysts predict that even if there’s a vaccine, and even if the interstate and international travel bans are lifted, the hotel industry won’t fully recover for years. And that means we are facing the stark reality that a large segment of hotels will remain closed and the majority of our members will remain on layoff for an extended period. And that period of unemployment is getting more and more difficult, with the dysfunction in Washington resulting in the suspension of federal unemployment supplements, the uncertainty…

[00:02:00]:

Surrounding the reopening of schools, growing housing insecurity, and most important, that ever present fear of an invisible virus that has already taken the lives of over 300 of our members. Now there is no contract we can negotiate, no grievance we can file that will cure this disease or bring travelers back to our hotels. But, thanks to our contract and thanks to the sound fundamentals of the Union, we are exceptionally well positioned to weather this storm. In fact, there is no question in my mind that we’ll not only survive but will emerge from this crisis stronger. Remember, this pandemic will end and the industry will recover, and when it does, and whenever it does, we’ll be able to go back to our jobs with all of the benefits, wages, and protections we had before the world turned upside down. We have a uniquely strong long-term contract with provisions that ensure most of our members will be able to return to…

[00:03:00]:

Their old jobs even if the industry remains shuttered for an extended time, and it’s because of two of these provisions that are negotiated into each of our master contracts that we have this right. First, in all of them, the IWA, the Division A, and the GRIWA, you never lose your right to recall, never, which means that when travelers ultimately come back, no matter how long it takes, so do you, as a matter of contractual right. And in that regard, we are better off than most other unions and certainly better than all non-union workplaces, where employees lose their right to recall, if they had any, after only a few months. Second, most of our contracts are long term, the GRIWA still has three years, the IWA six, and the Division A seven. Our contracts will almost certainly outlast the virus, which means that when our members are called back to work, our contract and all of its protections will still be solidly in place. And while the right to recall after this crisis is over…

[00:04:00]:

is certainly important in the long-term, there are a number of short-term problems that we need to address right now. And between now and the time this pandemic is over, there are a number of initiatives that we’ll roll out to protect our jobs and to assist our members who are on layoff to survive. And we’ll be rolling those over the coming weeks and months. Today, however, I am happy to report that we’ve made significant progress on two of those fronts. Continuing health coverage for those of us that are out of work, and ensuring that our workplaces are safe for the few that are working. On Friday, I finalized an agreement with the Hotel Association on behalf of over 130 hotels that accomplished those two goals. First, the agreement extends healthcare for IWA and Division A hotels for an additional month through the end of September. Now as you may remember, in April we won an arbitration case against the industry that extended healthcare for IWA and Division A shops for four months…

[00:05:00]:

Six for GRIWA, and that was a major victory with a cumulative value of nearly $200 million dollars. That extension however, is slated to expire at the end of this month. The new agreement extends benefits for IWA and Division A hotels for another month through the end of September. What happens after that? We’re going to try to extend them further. But if we can’t, we’ll explain and help you pick from various options whether it be extending coverage through COBRA, signing up for subsidized healthcare through the state, or using accrued paid time off to extend your benefits. Second, last week we were able to extend the coronavirus safety protocol agreement, the CSP. And this is critical to ensuring that those of us who go back to work can do so knowing that hotels are as safe as possible and that we’re protected on the job. Now as you probably recall, we negotiated this CSP agreement with well over 100 individual hotels in April, and then extended it again in June. Last week…

[00:06:00]:

We were able to extend it once again, this time until the end of the declared state of emergency, or until the FDA has an approved vaccine. And this includes continuing terms like twenty additional paid sick days for workers who contract COVID-19, diagnostic testing on paid time, workplace safety precautions like enhanced disinfection protocols, personal protective equipment, mandatory masks for guests, and flexible use of paid and unpaid time off. Some hotels had their quotas modified and additional public space sanitization teams assigned under the CSP. And for those hotels that are open, the quota reduction and public space sanitization team continue through the end of the year until December 31st. And even after they expire, no employee represented by this Union can be laid off, and we still reserve the right to challenge that quota or work load as unreasonable. For those hotels that are closed, and in order…

[00:07:00]:

To encourage them to reopen and recall our members, they can ask to negotiate a fair quota and staffing levels with the Union prior to the reopening. And finally, a labor management committee will be established to meet on an on-going and continuing basis to explore new ways to make hotels safer. And first on the agenda as far as I’m concerned, are issues around ventilation, recirculation, and air purification. Now obviously, these are trying times and we will be facing many more challenges in the weeks and months to come. And I’ll continue to keep you informed about developments in the industry and Union initiatives. While we are in unpredicted and unpredictable times, I want to assure you that we are in the best possible position to meet any challenge. One, we have strong contracts that are long-term. Two, we have power over the industry and we know how to use it. Three, over the years we’ve become an ally to politicians that represent…

[00:08:00]:

Our interests and have called the ability to pass legislation that will protect our jobs. And four, we have a team of dedicated staff that are not only well versed in the contract but committed to representing the workers that are the members of our Union. And most importantly we have our membership. We have Delegates, we have rank-and-file leaders that are the eyes, ears, heart, and soul of the Union. I’d like to close by recognizing Peter Ward. I and all the other officers of the Union are both profoundly sad that he’s left us, but immeasurably grateful to him for what he’s given us. He’s provided us with inspired leadership over his forty-one year career. And for my twenty years, he’s mentored and trained me. He’s shown me how much a great labor union can accomplish in terms of protecting and improving the lives of our members and their families. He’s been a fierce fighter for us and a generous friend to me. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to publish a retrospective…

[00:09:00]:

Tribute to honor and celebrate Peter’s career and his amazing achievements. And I am heartened that while he leaves big shoes to fill, he also gives us broad shoulders to stand on. I am immensely proud of our Union. I’ve dedicated the last twenty years of my life to it, and I am determined not to let you down. I’m confident that not only will our Union survive this crisis, but we’ll come out the other side stronger for having gone through it. I wish I were taking office under better circumstances, but I have no doubt that we will face and overcome these challenges with the tenacity and courage, united as we’ve always done. I promise you that I’ll give you everything I have to confronting this crisis, and I’m confident that we will beat this, just as we have prevailed in so many fights against vicious employers, and we will come out a stronger Union because of it. Thank you for allowing me into your homes. Please stay safe.