On the Picket Line

Albany hotel workers beat back concession contract demands

By Midge Tannenbaum
February 19, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. — For four months workers at the downtown Hilton Albany have mobilized informational picketing and rallies against the bosses’ concession demands, winning growing solidarity from unionists and others in the Capital Region. They voted to approve a new contract Jan. 24 that pushed back proposed cutbacks.

With the victory, the New York Hotel Trades Council, which represents the 147 workers, ended its boycott of the 385-room hotel, the largest in the area. It’s located blocks from the state Capitol and government buildings.

The union contract with Long Island-based United Capital real estate investment company, which acquired the hotel in 2015, expired in April 2017. Bosses proposed eliminating a week of vacation, shortening bereavement leave from five to three days and replacing workers’ pensions with a 401(k) plan. These concessions were dropped in the contract that was adopted, and workers won a wage increase.

Hotel workers on their days off, joined by union staffers from Washington, D.C., New York and other cities and by Albany-area workers, would chant “No contract, no peace!” and “Don’t check in, check out!” in front of the Hilton. Several expanded picket rallies attracted large crowds. Management parked a large U-Haul truck outside the hotel entrance, trying — unsuccessfully — to prevent customers from seeing the pickets.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a prominent Democrat with presidential ambitions who poses as a “friend of labor,” waited for over a month after picketing began to tell state agencies to stop patronizing the hotel.