Graham Kilmer

Trade Hotel Workers Organizing Union

Lead organizer Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers alleges labor violations.

By - May 19th, 2024 12:28 pm

The Trade Hotel. Photo take May 13, 2023 by Jeramey Jannene.

Workers at the Trade Hotel are organizing a union with the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH).

The union announced Friday that workers at The Trade hotel, 420 W. Juneau Ave., have demanded recognition from their employer NCG Hospitality, a hotel management and development company based in Middleton, Wisconsin. MASH represents the more than 1,000 service and hospitality workers at Fiserv Forum and Pabst Theater Group venues.

The workers at The Trade hotel are demanding recognition under a new framework for labor organizing established by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2023. Meanwhile, MASH alleges that management has committed unfair labor practice violations in an attempt to thwart unionization at the downtown hotel.

The Trade is a four-star hotel that opened in May 2023 in Deer District, directly across the street from Fiserv Forum. The 207-room hotel was developed by NCG Hospitality on land leased from the Milwaukee Bucks organization.

A “strong majority” of workers have signed union recognition cards, the union said in a statement Friday, and MASH’s official filings with NCG Hospitality included a “demand” for recognition under the Cemex framework of the NLRB.

“The Trade Hotel Workers Union demanded Cemex recognition and offered to submit signed union cards to a neutral third party to confirm majority status if the employer articulates a good faith doubt,” MASH said in a statement Friday. If the company refuses to recognize the union, the NLRB will order an election to be held, but MASH noted that “Contested NLRB elections produce adversarial, antagonistic dynamics between employers and unions.”

MASH alleges NCG has already engaged in unfair labor practices. NCG has also hired attorney Douglas Witte of the Madison-based firm Boardman & Clarke. Witte’s company biography lists extensive experience representing private and public employers in employee and labor disputes.

“NCG hospitality has hired high-priced union-busting consultants,” Peter Rickman, president of MASH told Urban Milwaukee. “So given the fact that they’ve already committed unfair labor practices — charges that we will file later today on Friday– we expect this could get spicy.”

A representative of NCG could not be reached for comment by Urban Milwaukee.

Hotel management sent workers a letter Friday stating, among other things, “While NCG respects your right to vote for a union, or to continue without a union, we do believe a union would dramatically change our relationship and our culture. A union would expect you to pay dues and take away your direct voice with us and your property leaders.”

The union responded to the letter Friday afternoon: “We already decided. We formed a union.”

Additionally, in response to management’s concerns about changing the culture at the hotel, the union said, “A union and a contract would change things for the better. We would be able to meet with the company as equals. The culture would be based upon mutual respect and a document we’ve written together.”

NLRB elections can be long, drawn-out processes and have been criticized by labor advocates noting the extended timeline provides employers more time to bust up nascent unions or engage in other union interference. When workers at Colectivo organized with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the union election process played out over approximately five months, from the first ballots cast through the appeals process, with the final result a victory for the union.

“Contested union rights elections also incentivize employers to mislead and deceptively influence workers, intimidate and coerce workers, and engage in conduct calculated to allow employers to substitute their judgment for employees’ free choice to form a union,” MASH said in its statement Friday.

The Cemex decision, passed in August 2023 by the NLRB board, “reaffirms that elections are not the only appropriate path for seeking union representation, while also ensuring that, when elections take place, they occur in a fair election environment,” said NLRB Chairman Lauren McFerran following the ruling. “Under Cemex, an employer is free to use the Board’s election procedure, but is never free to abuse it—it’s as simple as that.”

Later that year, MASH requested recognition under the CEMEX decision when it successfully organized service workers at Lambeau Field. Their employer, New York-based Delaware North, ultimately filed for an NLRB election, which the union won.

The Trade Hotel workers are ready to begin bargaining a contract, Rickman wrote in a letter to NCG, and are demanding recognition of their union by Monday, May 20.

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Categories: Business, MKE County

4 thoughts on “Trade Hotel Workers Organizing Union”

  1. says:

    “Whenthe union’s inspiration through the workers blood shall run….” Roll on Union, roll on!

  2. Laura Tabili says:

    Good article!

  3. Jhenry1131 says:

    I have worked for the same company which has been both union and non-union. My workplace and it’s members have benefited greatly from becoming unionized. Good luck to the Trace employees, you will be glad you voted yes!

  4. Colin says:

    Gratz to the workers!
    Employer abuse? Union up.

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