NYC City Council Passes and Mayor de Blasio Signs Law Protecting Hotel Workers and Guests

On Monday, September 28, 2020, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio held an online ceremony and signed Intro 2049A into law alongside HTC President Rich Maroko.

September 30, 2020 3:10 PM

Last Wednesday, by a vote of 45 to 4, the NYC City Council passed, and on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed, a new law which will provide vital security for New York City hotel workers, and which will also greatly enhance consumer protections for people traveling to our city.

HTC President Rich Maroko commented, “40,000 HTC members and their families applaud and thank the mayor, the speaker, and all our friends in the City Council for acting decisively to enact critical measures to prevent a small, unscrupulous segment of the hotel owners in this city from exploiting the COVID-19 disaster to profiteer. We are fortunate to have elected officials in this city and state who have acted courageously and responsibly in these terrible times.”

Job security for workers if a hotel changes hands or is foreclosed on

Under the new law, simply titled “Intro 2049A,” any hotel that changes management or ownership, or goes into court-ordered receivership, is required to retain the employees for at least 90 days at the same or a higher wage rate. After 90 days, the hotel must offer the workers continued employment if their performance is satisfactory.

This important new legal safeguard provides one of the few protections in law for non-union hotel workers who, as “at-will” employees, are generally completely vulnerable to being fired or laid off unjustly, for any or no reason. Non-union hotel workers across the city have reported being permanently thrown out on the street by non-union hotels who see the pandemic as an opportunity to drastically cut their labor costs even more than they have in the past.

This law also bolsters protections for unionized hotel workers. Receivership and bankruptcy laws are used by companies to get out of their debts and to renege on their contracts, effectively using them as a license to cheat.

For years, as our Union’s chief negotiator, Rich Maroko has made it one of his major priorities to devise and win powerful contract language which has greatly reinforced the job security protections in all HTC contracts, resulting in the strongest such contractual rights anywhere. This new law, which he worked tirelessly to advocate, backs up those contract provisions. It makes it more difficult for hotels to try to use bankruptcy laws and the appointment of receivers to get around our contract, which requires any new owner of a hotel to assume our contract and keep the workers.

For example, only a few months ago, the owner of the Hilton Times Square and its lender, which was in the process of foreclosing on the hotel as a result of the financial crisis caused by the COVID crisis, snuck into federal court and asked a judge to appoint a “receiver” to manage the Hotel pending the lender’s completion of its foreclosure. They effectively asked the judge to give the receiver the right to tear up any contracts and fire all the employees and the judge agreed, in violation of the union contract. In this case, Rich and his team of lawyers were able to use our contract’s strong language to persuade an arbitrator to impose heavy penalties on the owner until it agreed to drop its request for a receivership. If that hadn’t worked, all the employees might have lost their jobs.

With this new law, any owner who tries to violate the contract will now also be violating the law.

New consumer protections to strengthen tourism to NYC

Rich Maroko has also, in recent years, successfully advocated for local and state legislation in various parts of our union’s jurisdiction, requiring hotels to inform guests of service disruptions (including some picket lines and other demonstrations) in advance and allowing guests in such situations to cancel their reservations.

Such laws have already been enacted in other cities, like Albany, where our picketers at the Hilton Albany encountered many hotel guests who were outraged to discover that the hotel had neglected to inform them in advance of our picket line.

Now, visitors to New York City will enjoy the same right to know in advance of any service disruptions, whether they be picket lines or handicap accessibility, and choose whether or not to go to a different hotel.

This provision greatly enhances consumer confidence, and consequently, the vitally important tourism sector of New York City’s economy. This boost is something that is desperately needed in the wake of the pandemic to encourage travelers to come back to New York and restart the hotel industry.

Despite all the dishonest right-wing political rhetoric about so-called “deregulation,” the fact is that prosperous business often requires intelligent and wise government regulation. For example, legitimate casino and racetrack operators depend on reliable and strong government laws and regulations against cheating by the house so that its customers can trust that the games it runs are clean and not fixed. The same principle applies in many industries in which consumer confidence depends on intelligent regulation, such as building, electrical, and health codes, truth-in-advertising laws, lending laws, rent regulations, food safety laws, and regulations ensuring the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs.

This new law will greatly enhance the long-term health of lodging and tourism in New York City.

Watch the online signing ceremony

On Monday, September 28th, 2020, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio held an online ceremony and signed Intro 2049A into law. HTC President Rich Maroko spoke at the event about the importance of this new legislation. Watch the video below:

 

Another reminder of the importance of building grassroots union political power

There are those who believe the political process should be the exclusive domain of a rich and corrupt corporate oligarchy.

Our Union’s political program demonstrates that when working people organize and volunteer in large numbers to elect political candidates who are on the side of ordinary people, good government is actually achievable.