Unionization fight at Union Station spills over into election politics

180 workers at the hotel want to be represented by UNITE HERE 74

Workers at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel want to be represented by UNITE HERE Local 74 and their effort has emerged as an issue in the hotly-contested race for St. Louis aldermanic president, James Drew of the St. Louis Business Journal reports.

In a petition filed last month with the National Labor Relations Board, Local 74 said it would represent 180 hotel employees in collective bargaining at the 567-room Union Station Hotel in downtown St. Louis, including full and part-time room attendants, servers, bell persons and laundry attendants.

The request for a union vote is pending with the regional director of NLRB.

Kim Bartholomew, president of Local 74, told the Business Journal Lodging Hospital Management — the company that operates the Union Station Hotel — has hired what it calls “consultants” –– at least four people who have been hounding the hotel workers for about a month.

She said the “consultants,” who won’t provide their last names, are spreading “mistruths” about the union effort. The union has been unable so far to identify their employer.

“These workers are being inundated day after day with, ‘Here’s why a union is horrible. You don’t want an outside third party. Why would you want to pay someone union dues?’ These are the kinds of things they tell people to try to create doubt,” Bartholomew said of the company’s union busters.

Bartholomew said the employees want to join Local 74 to get higher pay to deal with inflation, work enough hours to be eligible for health insurance and be “treated with respect.”

Robert O’Loughlin is LHM’s chairman and CEO. He also leads an investment group, USH LLC, that owns the Union Station Hotel. Other entities that he leads own about 20 hotels, none of which have union employees. LHM also manages those properties.

In typical union-busting corporate fashion, O’Loughlin said LHM treats its employees very well and there isn’t a need for a union, but it’s up to the workers to make that decision.

He called the union-busting consultants “advisors,” and told the Business Journal he couldn’t recall the name of the company they work for.

In a fundraising letter for her bid as aldermanic president, Alderman Megan Green alleged that LHM opposes the unionization attempt.

“On Sept. 28, I joined Union Station employees to publicly protest LHM’s union-busting techniques. On Oct. 10, LHM sent $50,000 to my opponent,” Green wrote in the email, referring to Alderman Jack Coatar and the political action committee supporting his bid for aldermanic president.

Green’s email also noted that Coatar’s PAC received $50,000 from the Leadership Counts PA, whose treasurer is Patrick McCarthy.

In a statement to the Business Journal, Coatar said: “On the unionization effort, I have always supported workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, and I support Union Station hotel workers’ efforts to unionize. I’ll put my record on worker’s rights and working families up against my opponent’s any day.”

UNITE HERE Local 74 represents about 2,800 workers in the St. Louis metro area, including those who work at hotels, casinos, food service operations at universities, stadiums and St. Louis Lambert International Airport.


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