Hotel Online  Special Report



Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge
Challenge to Hospitality Industry

by John R. Hendrie, March 26, 2004

When I heard about the consolidation of the Hotel Union, HERE, and the former Textile Union, UNITE, my reaction was the following: Lawyers will become busier and wealthier and the Hospitality Industry will become more complicated, for many properties are simply not prepared to remain union free.  It does not matter how large an operation you are, for you will be impacted, perhaps not directly but potentially through your community. I have dealt with both Unions, and I know what substantial a challenge they present.  Now, they are one, debt free and further dedicated to raising the living standard of low-wage employees, where their message reasonates.

I am not anti-union, understanding that their attraction is based upon poor Management practices, typically communication, employee relations, and compensation issues.  I believe you can operate a successful Business and remain non-union. 

But, you must understand the challenge.  They are passionate about their charter, they believe in social justice, and their organizing strategies are aggressive and strategic.  Their target is the lower paid employee, normally female and a member of a minority or immigrant group. 

Both have been very successful in their organizing tactics.  UNITE took on JP Stevens and won.  They are organizing laundries and garment manufacturers.  As many textile business are moving offshore, they are focusing on other service jobs.  HERE has had success with Gaming, particularly Las Vegas. They are active in most medium sized and larger cities in the US that have a concentration of Hotels and Restaurants.  And, remember that Hospitality cannot be outsourced.

What does this mean to you?  Firstly, take a look at the number and make-up of your employees.  Even as a small Inn or Restaurant, you must be attentive. For although you specifically may not be a target for an organizing campaign, a grouping of like businesses may.  Keep in mind that there are other types of lodgings in your community, as well as Restaurants, which may be more attractive targets, yet the entire city or destination may be impacted.  So, no one is immune.

Secondly, how do you treat your employees?  If you think employee relations is like a guest comment card program, you will be rudely awakened.  No matter how small or casual you are, your policies and procedures are critically important and application must be fair and consistent.

Lastly, how do you reward your employees?  Margins are tight, but do you pay a competitive rate?  Is there some form of Benefit Plan available, bonus and reward systems, pay for performance?  Whatever the mix you use, have you retained and motivated your employee population, whether it be 3 or 30 or 300? 

I take this union of HERE and UNITE very seriously.  You should, too, as well as any Hospitality Association to which you belong. With the economy still uncertain, tourism still impacted by 9/11 and yet to recover, with layoffs across the business spectrum, with cultural and social problems being aired during a political season, this represents an ideal, opportune, full offensive against the Hospitality Industry by a cohesive and comprehensive Labor Organizing Movement. Are you ready?  

John R. Hendrie
Hospitality Performance, Inc.

Also See: Top Union Representing Hotel Workers, HERE, Merging with Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees; Follows Trend of Consolidation in Organized Labor / March 2004

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