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Hotel Workers Back Living Wage
Crain's New York

December 13, 2011
View the Original Article

The 30,000-member New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, which endorsed the mayor in 2005 and 2009, will today urge the City Council to pass the controversial living-wage bill, joining a growing number of private-sector unions.

“The debate on this legislation has run its course,” Hotel Trades President Peter Ward said in a statement. “The moment for action has arrived.”

Proponents of the measure, which would raise the minimum wage 59% at city-subsidized development sites, hope the announcement will pressure Council Speaker Christine Quinn to bring the bill to a vote.

Last month, the region's 350,000-member health-care workers' union, 1199 SEIU, threw its weight behind the bill. Labor sources say that more unions will soon follow suit, targeting Quinn and possibly other members of the City Council.

“If you actively work to defeat living wage this time around,” warned one insider, “you're likely to run immense political risks in the future.”

But one Democratic insider with ties to organized labor said the bill is a high priority for only one union—the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store workers.

It remains unclear what Hotel Trades will do in the immediate future to get the living wage passed. Like 1199 SEIU, the union would not say whether it plans to invest substantial resources into a campaign. Meanwhile, opponents, who contend the bill would kill projects, have launched an advertising campaign, hired lobbyists and assembled a communications team.

“The position of the Hotel Trades Council is mystifying,” said a spokesman for Putting New Yorkers to Work, a group that includes the Real Estate Board of New York and the five borough chambers of commerce. “They are actually advocating less employment for their own members.”