Hotel Workers Win Substantial Raises

More than 20,000 hotel workers appear to be reaping the benefits of a thriving hospitality industry. A recent labor contract agreed to on Tuesday has workers earning a 29 percent raise over 7 years.

The New York Hotel Workers Union said the average housekeeper’s annual salary will go from roughly $47,000 to nearly $60,000 over the life of the 7 year contract.

In addition, hotel owners have agreed to increase pension contributions from 9 to 10.5 percent and provide personal panic buttons allowing housekeepers, room service waiters and others to call for help if they feel unsafe.

According to data from New York City's tourism agency, hotels have weathered the recession well. More than 27 million hotel rooms were occupied last year — that’s 4.2 million more than in 2007, prior to the recession.

However, the average rate of a hotel room has not completely caught up to pre-recession levels. According to the data, last year the average daily rate for a New York City hotel room was $271 compared to $303 in 2007.

The Hotel Association, which represents 78 New York City hotel owners including Starwood, Hyatt and Intercontinental hotels, said the industry has strength, but it is certainly not flush. "The driver of this contract is that the Hotel Association cares about its workers and their fiscal health," said spokeswoman Lisa Linden. 

Hotel housekeeper Anaa G., who works for a luxury hotel in mid-town Manhattan where suites can cost upwards of $2,000 a night, said workers deserve this raise. She said the work is physically grueling, and many women end up hurting themselves and have to go on disability. "Everyday you feel more and more tired," she said.

In contrast, a union representing office cleaners didn’t fare as well. About 22,000 building cleaners recently received a 5.6 percent wage increase over 4 years. Vincent Alvarez, president of the Central Labor Council, says it’s not fair to compare the two contracts without considering how each industry has been affected by the recession.  "The real estate industry has gone through a lot of just real challenges that I don't think that the hospitality industry had to face at the same level so I think you have to look at them differently," said Alvarez.