New York Hospitality Workers Union Expands to NJ as COVID Fuels Labor Organizing
Staff at 10 New Jersey hotels will be the latest to join the powerful Hospitality Workers Union, as the labor movement pushes to organize leisure and hospitality workers hit hard by the COVID pandemic.
The Hospitality and Gaming Trades Council said it opened its first New Jersey office in Montclair on Wednesday, the same day 140 hospitality workers voted to ratify their contracts with the union.
Hotel workers in Rutherford, Secaucus, Parsippany and East Rutherford were among those to join the union, which has seen “rapid growth” in the Garden State, the council said in a statement Thursday.
About 40,000 employees are represented by the union in New Jersey and New York, including 6,000 employees at 57 New Jersey hotels, the group said.
“By voting to ratify these contracts, these workers earn significantly higher wages for themselves, affordable health care for their families, and a pension plan that will see them through retirement,” the HGTC chairman said. , Richard Maroko, a longtime labor attorney who is also a board member of NJ Transit, said in the statement. “All will earn more under their union contract than before.”
The newly unionized workers were all at Extended Stay America hotels, including two in Secaucus and others in Rutherford, East Rutherford, Elizabeth, Piscataway, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Edison and Franklin, the union said.
Extended Stay representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Hotels, restaurants, theme parks and other parts of the leisure and hospitality industry have struggled to fill positions over the past two years as COVID-19-related business restrictions increased and were dwindling and the nation was making new variations of roller coasters.
“The low wages, irregular hours and difficult work environments that are common in the hospitality industry have contributed to the shortage of workers willing to fill these positions,” said Todd Vachon, professor at Rutgers University and director of the School Labor Education Action Research. Network, which partners with labor rights groups.
“Union representation and the corresponding increase in wages, benefits and working conditions could certainly help attract more people to these professions,” he said.
Union density has always been low in these sectors.
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In the New York metropolitan area, 2.5% of recreation and hospitality employees were unionized in 2019 and 2020, according to a September 2020 report from the City University of New York. This includes workers in northern and central New Jersey as well as New York and Connecticut.
A 2018 report looking just at New Jersey found that 14.9% of recreation and hospitality workers were unionized, according to Rutgers. The figure was boosted by more than 8,000 workers at the nine Atlantic City resort casinos that are represented by UNITE HERE Local 54.
A union push at Starbucks coffee shops has also made headlines recently. More than 100 franchises are organizing efforts according to CNBC, including two locations in Buffalo, New York, and another in Mesa, Arizona, which voted in favor this year. Workers at a Starbucks in Hopewell Township announced similar plans in January.
“The highly visible organizing efforts – including many successes – of Starbucks employees have inspired other workers in these typically difficult-to-organize professions to take action,” said Rutgers Professor Vachon.
“The choice by many workers to quit or simply not take low-paying jobs has allowed those in low-paying jobs to take this kind of action to try to improve their jobs.”