Hotel Online  Special Report

Preparing for the Assault by Organized
Labor on Hospitality


By John R. Hendrie, CEO, Hospitality Performance, Inc., May 2005

For an industry so labor intensive, it is shocking to see the unpreparedness for an imminent assault by Organized Labor on Hospitality.  It is as if the “lights are on, and no one is at home”.  From a strategic point of view, Organized Labor has you right where they want you.  Complacency and inattention are good!

The AFL-CIO is in the midst of a dramatic and historic struggle for leadership and bold future action plans.  The current President of the Federation, John J. Sweeney, is being challenged as the existing change agent, and the most compelling platform concerns how many millions of dollars (up to half the budget) to expend upon union organizing efforts.  And, a leading contender for the post is none other than John W. Wilhelm, current President of Unite HERE’s Hospitality Division.  He is widely recognized for his audacious and far reaching organizing skills.

About a year ago, Unite, which basically brought the textile industry to its knees, and HERE, the largest Hospitality union, joined as one, creating a powerful, synergistic entity. As a Hospitality operator, please consider the following:

  • targeted businesses:  service industries which cannot move offshore
  • targeted audience:  lower paid employees, normally female, less formal education and a member of a minority or immigrant group
  • targeted message:  dignity for the disenfranchised, social justice, raising the standard of living
The above targets are quite probably - you!  Unite HERE, on its own, is debt free and passionately dedicated.  Even the Southeast of the US, once the bastion of union free enterprise, is caving – consider Biloxi, MS.  With the added heft of the AFL-CIO, no matter the outcome for federation leadership, the Hospitality Industry is at risk!

Savvy legal counsel and consultants know you can pay them now or a great deal more in the midst of a union campaign.  With all the development activity we are witnessing and the summer season almost upon us, you must take inventory NOW.  There is not a short fix for protection.  What must be implemented is a strategic philosophy and different way in which you conduct your affairs, no matter your size or segment of the industry.  Organized labor means business, and you must be prepared. 

Companies actually invite union activity with poor management practices, and you can learn from the 6 in 10 Hospitality workers who seek new jobs annually.  Compensation (base wage/benefits) is always an issue.  Poor communication and employee relations add to the mix, as does minimal career opportunity.  For many, it is the lack of respect.  With a shrinking trained labor pool, fewer are doing more, and loyalty no longer exists. Talk about an organizing opportunity. If you refer back to the targets, you can appreciate your exposure. 

The first step is the Assessment Process.  “Head in the sand” or arrogance will not work; you must respond.  Engage professionals, for you are too close to the situation, and this is not your expertise.  When the recommendations are readied and the plan is afoot, you must demonstrate this new cultural approach daily, communicate the values at every opportunity, and display your commitment in person.  It will be a different way in which you do business, and, union prompted or not, you can become an enlightened and prosperous employer. 

Unite HERE is in the news, particularly on the National stage with their contract maneuvering, but “pockets” in the secondary markets are rating coverage, too.  All it takes is a laundry operation here and a hotel or a restaurant there to start the targeted campaign. To be candid, there is no guarantee that you shall remain union free, but your preventive action will dilute any eventuality.  Your choice!

John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
Also See: Customer Service - Panacea or Placebo / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
How to Even the Playing Field, As Independents Suspiciously Eye the Chain Hotels / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Oh, What a Web We Weave! Pitfalls with Descriptive Language / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005
Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005
Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005
The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005
Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005
Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004

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