What difference does having a union make for hotel workers?
A union job can bring a family out of poverty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hotel housekeeper makes $8.67 per hour. That’s an annual salary of $17,340 for 40 hours per week of work. In 2007, the poverty threshold for a family of four was $21,027. On the other hand union wages for housekeepers can range from $13.00 per hour- or $26,000 per year, to above $17.00 per hour-or $34,000 per year.
Unions can also make a real difference in the workload of hotel workers. The number of rooms housekeepers are required to clean varies widely across HEI’s hotels, from 13 per day in San Francisco (where the vast majority of the company’s competitors are union) to as many as 32 per day in Arlington, Virginia (where fewer competitors are union). When required to clean so many rooms each day, workers report being unable to even stop for breaks. These heavy workloads take a physical toll—working at an unsafe speed increases housekeepers’ risk of injury.
What is a private equity fund?
Instead of selling shares of the company that are publicly traded on the stock market, some companies (like HEI) privately raise funds from a limited number of investors. Investors are generally partners for a particular fund instead of investors in the company itself. In HEI’s case, the company uses a fund to buy a certain number hotels, and investors benefit from the returns made by those specific hotels. Unlike with publicly traded stocks, investors in private equity funds cannot participate in traditional forms of shareholder activism like voting on resolutions. Instead, investors in private equity funds must come up with innovative ways to use their influence.
What is “majority sign up” or “card check/neutrality agreement”?
Under a majority sign up, also known as a card-check/neutrality agreement, a company agrees to respect its employees’ right to make their own decision about whether or not to collectively organize. This means that, if a majority of workers sign cards in favor of a union, the company agrees to recognize their union. The company also commits to leaving the decision about a union up to workers instead of running an anti-union campaign of harassment and intimidation.