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New York City Hotels Balk at Labor Agreement

(CN) - A Brooklyn federal judge must stop the New York City hotel-workers' union from making its organizing process go "viral," a dozen hospitality outfits said.

The owners of the Aloft New York Brooklyn hotel, the Solita Soho Hotel and others filed the suit Thursday against the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

Collectively, the plaintiffs' 12 New York City hotels "employ a non-union workforce," according to the complaint.

They have taken issue with a collective-bargaining contract that the defendant union entered into with businesses that belong to the Hotel Association of New York City (HANCY).

This "Industry Wide Agreement," or IWA as it is named in the complaint, allows the union to organize employees through a card-check process instead of mounting an organizing campaign at each hotel.

It also requires each employer to remain neutral.

The plaintiff hotels say that the union is trying to bind them to the IWA even though they don't belong to HANCY.

The union's alleged basis for its argument is that a separate company with some common ownership as plaintiffs signed the agreement.

"Under defendants' 'viral' theory of contract formation, once a legal entity that owns or operates a hotel in New York City becomes subject to the IWA, all other hotels owned or operated by that entity or its corporate affiliates also become subject to the IWA's card-check organizing procedures," according to the complaint.

The hotels say the reading of the IWA implies that managing agents at a unionized hotel would be bound as "joint employers" to apply card-check procedures at non-union hotels.

"The net result of defendant's scheme would be to force all non-union hotels out of the New York City market," the complaint continues.

The union represents approximately 32,000 hotel employees, and has contracts with approximately 75 percent of hotels in the five boroughs, according to the complaint.

"Because the card-check process and employer neutrality are so valuable to labor unions, employers that accept these provisions receive substantial reciprocal concessions from the labor unions, either in the form of long-term caps on increases in wages and benefits or other substantial concessions that provide immediate and valuable benefits to the employer," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs, however, received no consideration to indicate acceptance of the IWA agreements or any of their provisions."

The other 10 hotels owned by the plaintiff businesses include the Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, two Fairfield Inns, two Sheratons and a Hampton Inn.

Several of the plaintiffs own hotels that have not yet opened, including the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott.

The hotels seek a declaration that they are not bound by the IWA.

They are represented by Timothy Pfeifer with Baker & Hostetler in Manhattan.

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