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Last NYC Non-Union Hotel Signs

Hotel Trades Council organizes the Marriott Marquis Time Square

Brian Young's picture
Jan 12, 2021

When tourists come to New York City, they head to Times Square, and many stay at the Marriott Marquis. Up until last week, the towering hotel in the middle of Times Square held a dubious distinction as the largest and oldest non-union hotel in New York City. That distinction is now gone as the New York Hotel Trades Council (HTC) has announced that they have won an organizing campaign to turn the hotel union.

According to HTC, the union has been attempting to organize the hotel for 35 years. While every other major hotel in the city had an organized workforce, Marriott constantly kept up their union avoidance effort. Starting in 1985 when the hotel was hiring its first 1,900 employees, the company screened out anyone who they thought might want to push the hotel union. HTC says that the hiring process included repeated interviews and polygraph tests, a practice that at the time was legal. Years after the drive was over, these suspicions were confirmed when the Union obtained a copy of a Marriott manager's handbook instructing managers to avoid hiring applicants from heavily unionized cities like New York, Chicago, and Seattle.

The hotel also had one of the highest turnover rates in the city which made it extremely difficult to organize. Anytime HTC would get a foot in the door the staff would turnover and new anti-union employees would be brought in.

Ironically, Marriott Marquis workers have consistently been some of the highest-paid non-union hotel workers in the city thanks to HTC. To prevent the workers from organizing the hotel would try to keep their employees near the same pay rate as the union workers. Marriot employees even got raises at the same time HTC contracts called for raises. Yet, the workers didn’t have the same protections that HTC hotel workers had. 

So, what finally pushed the workers to call up HTC? COVID-19. Back in December, the hotel decided to fire approximately 850 employees in the Food & Beverage department and in other departments like housekeeping. They were replaced with subcontractors. At the same time, the union had an organizing campaign going on which included a strong organizing committee who saw the writing on the wall. Seeing so many of their coworkers being let go ended up being the spark that was needed and gave the union effort the final push over the finish line.

“This is a bittersweet victory because 850 Marquis workers learned, too late, that corporations are not driven by sentimental feelings like loyalty,” Lead Organizer and Director of Organizing Julia Rybak remarked.

This is the second win at a Marriott hotel for HTC. Back on December 10th, workers at the Marriott Downtown voted to join the union.

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