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Historic Warwick Hotel Workers Say Union Is Failing to Help Get Their Jobs Back

Although the Warwick Hotel received millions in PPP loans, several former workers say the hotel replaced them with non-union workers instead

When the pandemic began, the historic Warwick Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, like many businesses at the time, received millions in the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

The program was set up during the height of the pandemic to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls. Small business owners and nonprofits were encouraged to rehire employees who were laid off due to the pandemic, but they were not required to rehire them. However, to qualify for full forgiveness, businesses had to rehire employees or be forced to repay their PPP loans.     

At the Warwick, about 50 workers were employed as part of the hotel’s food and beverage staff. Then in March of 2020, as the pandemic began, they were furloughed from the hotel.

But although the Warwick reopened in August 2020, most of the food and beverage workers, who are all members of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council Local 6 union, have not been able to return to their jobs. This will be their fourth year of not working at the hotel since being furloughed.

“They never called us back,” said Nyan Myo Win, a Warwick worker from Burma. “They can’t just hire non-union people to work over here when everybody got laid off.”

Instead of being able to return to work, Win and the nearly 50 food and beverage staff said they were replaced by non-union workers, violating their union contract.

“The reality is the hotel promised to bring us back so we want to be put back on the payroll,” said Win.

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To make ends meet, workers like Win began driving for Uber. Despite driving day and night, seven days a week, with three kids to support, Win has struggled to keep his family’s finances afloat. “We all lost income and benefits,” he said. “We all suffer mentally.”

In 2020, the Warwick, under the name Silver Autumn Hotel (N.Y.) Corporation Ltd. received a PPP loan of $5,245,200. In 2021, the hotel received a second PPP loan of $2,000,000. Both loans have since been forgiven.  

Warwick Hotels and Resorts did not respond to Documented numerous requests for comment. 

Farid Roncancio, 60, had worked at the Warwick for 20 years before being furloughed in 2020. To survive, he got a part-time job at a non-union hotel where he made less than he did at the Warwick.

“I can not live with that money, so I struggle myself,” he said. 

In November, Roncancio said he was rehired at Warwick, but on a part-time basis. “It’s not consistent and it’s not the 35 hours I used to work,” he said. “We need all our jobs back.”

Looking for help, the workers hoped Local 6 would fight to get their jobs back. But when they reached out, they said they felt the union lacked urgency.  

“They are not honoring the contract, that’s why we are holding the union responsible,” said Win. “They are sitting on their ass.”

Workers allege that only a few of the food and beverage staff, like Roncancio, have returned to their jobs, but only on a part-time basis. Most still have not returned despite a promise that their furlough was only a temporary measure because of  the pandemic. 

New York’s hotel industry is still struggling to find its footing after the pandemic. Unemployment in the hospitality industry is still chronic, with 20,000 unemployed hospitality workers as of 2023. 

Even with the union’s insistence that the Warwick has not fully returned to pre-pandemic operations, online job postings on various job sites show the Warwick is actively trying to hire food and beverage staff. 

Fed up, on Sept. 14, the workers filed four charges against their union with The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for failing to fairly represent them. The NLRB determined that the charges did not have merit, and dismissed all the charges. 

Since the workers first lost their jobs, Local 6 has litigated on behalf of the food and beverage workers. The union and the hotel took part in an arbitration hearing on December 15, 2021. After the initial hearing, the arbitrator found that the hotel violated the terms of the union contract by hiring non-union workers to perform union work. 

On February 2, 2022, the arbitrator ruled that the hotel must compensate the furloughed workers during the time the hotel’s restaurant reopened. Currently, Local 6 and Warwick are negotiating the exact amount of the compensation package.  

A spokesperson for HTC Local 6 who asked not to be named, stressed that the union’s top priority has been getting its members back to work. 

“We have utilized every tool that is legally available to us, including litigation and even legislation requiring severance payments by hotels that refused to reopen,” they said. “While our members enjoy recall rights that never go away no matter how long a hotel remains closed, unfortunately, the reality that we face is that operations have not yet fully returned to pre-pandemic levels. When they do, HTC will enforce their recall rights and in the interim, our union will continue to do everything within its power to get its members back to work.”

Despite those insurances, Win and the other workers are not convinced. 

“The union did not fight for us fully,” said Win. “They never fought to get us back to work, they only fought for the secondary things like back pay. Union is guilty too.”

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