Management has hired consultants to intimidate employees
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Eight Labor allies gathered for an “eat-in” at St. Louis Union Station Hotel last week to support workers there seeking union representation from UNITE HERE Local 74, and intimidation was in the air.
As members of the group had lunch at the hotel’s Station Grille, four union-busters and two managers circled the restaurant like vultures. One manager, who appeared to be seating guests that day – a job usually reserved for hosts, made frequent stops by the three tables occupied by the allies.
Local 74 President Kim Bartholomew said the company has hired what it calls “consultants” that have been floating through different departments in the hotel to intimidate employees and spread typical union-busting lies and confusion.
SPREADING LIES, CONFUSION
“One union-buster asked an employee if they would consider not joining the union if the company provided a $2 an hour raise,” she said. “They also have placed a poster by one of the time clocks that says ‘$500 for union dues,’ and of course, it doesn’t put the dues in perspective.”
Last month, workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking an election to organize with Local 74. If successful, about 70 percent of the hotel workers including bellmen, housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, servers and others would win union representation.
Workers presented their petition to hotel management on Sept. 10 during the Missouri Democratic Party’s Truman Dinner at the hotel with the support of Sen. Doug Beck (D-Affton), president the Missouri Building & Construction Trades Council, U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
MANAGERS LESS FRIENDLY
At the time, hotel management claimed they would remain neutral during the election.
However, Madeline Gehrig, a server at Station Grille and one of the lead organizers, said that hasn’t been the case over the last couple of weeks.
“They know I have ties to the union,” she said in an interview after her shift. “There is definitely less friendliness on the part of management, and some of my co-workers feel awkward because of it.”
Gehrig, who recently received a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University and is planning to attend law school, said the workers want fair pay and better benefits and working conditions.
Lisa Williams-Jones, a Local 74 member who works in the banquet department at the Marriot St. Louis Grand, attended the eat-in Sept. 28 to show the workers support. She has friends who work at Union Station Hotel.
“Some of these employees take three buses to get to work and when they arrive, they get sent home because they are not needed for the day,” she said. “Not to mention that they have to find childcare in a pinch. It’s disrespectful to the employees.”
ONE OF 27 PROPERTIES
Union Station Hotel is one of 27 properties owned by Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM). It owns 17 hotels, eight restaurants and two commercial properties in the St. Louis area.
“They know if one property goes union, the others will follow,” Bartholomew said.
Other union members and Labor allies attended the eat-in throughout the day.
SIGN THE PETITION
For those unable to attend the event, Local 74 is urging the public to sign an online petition telling LHM CEO Robert O’Loughlin to stop union-busting and respect the hotel workers trying to organize. Add your name at http://ow.ly/eKSy50KXs9R.
Union Station breaks pledge to St. Louis mayor to remain neutral in union election
If a company can’t keep its word to the mayor of St. Louis, how much credence can you put in their commitment to their employees?
The anti-union campaign launched by the Union Station Hotel management against organizing efforts of UNITE HERE Local 74 to bring union wages and security to several hundred hotel workers flies directly in the face of station management’s commitment to Mayor Tishaura Jones that they would remain neutral. Contrary to their commitment, the station has:
• Brought in outside union busters (they are calling them ‘labor experts’) who are using every trick in their “bust-the-unions” playbook to dissuade workers from voting for the union.
• Issued the first of what is promised to be many letters from hotel General Manager Timothy Cooper in which he distorts what a union is all about and began the effort to sow discord between workers who would be in the bargaining unit and others in the hotel who would not be covered by the union’s contract.
However, he inadvertently outlined a benefit: that once a union wins a contract for its members, it could have a positive impact on what other employees earn when he stated, “Even though the Union is focused on representing only a select group of our associates, if it gets into any part of our Hotel, it will affect each and every one of us.”
“If the history of union negotiations is any indicator, once a union wins wage boosts and new benefits for its new members, management has to do the same for its non-union employees in order to keep them,” said Pat White, president, St. Louis Labor Council.
Local 74 is seeking to organize all the full and part time service workers, cooks, bartenders, room service, laundry and banquet staff. It will not cover front desk, maintenance, office workers, security guards, supervisors and managers.
The union’s campaign has received the endorsement of Mayor Jones, U.S. Representative Cori Bush the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, the Building Trades Council and the Missouri State Building Trades Council.
“There is power in the union…we’re behind you, we support you,” Congresswoman Bush said earlier at a dinner meeting at the hotel where she referenced the current organizing campaign.