Saturday, May 28, 2022

Unionized Colonial Williamsburg Hospitality Workers Unanimously Vote to Ratify New Contract

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hospitality workers represented by UNITE HERE! Local 25, have received a new contract with the Foundation (WYDaily/Molly Feser)
UPDATE (Dec. 24, 2021, 4:29 p.m.): A statement was received from representatives of UNITED HERE! Local 25 and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. This story has been updated to reflect this new information.

*Indicates an update added to this story.

WILLIAMSBURG — Hospitality workers for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF) that are members of the union, UNITE HERE! Local 25, have voted unanimously to ratify a new contract which sees an increase in wages and new benefits.

In a release posted to the Union’s Facebook page, major changes in the workers’ new contracts include:

  • Substantial wage increase over four-year contracts with the minimum non-tipped rate which will go from $12.20 per hour to $15.50 this month and then $18.50 an hour in 2025.
  • Tipped workers will receive a $500 and non-tipped workers will receive $1,000 ratification bonus in their next paychecks. The Union notes that this is in addition to a $1,000 holiday bonus that CWF provided for Union members already.
  • Overtime policies will change to include an end to mandatory extra rooms for housekeepers, the addition of time-and-a-half pay for workers when they do not receive two consecutive days off, and the implementation of a new system for assigning overtime based on a volunteer rotation.
  • Guaranteed eight hour work day for non-tipped workers and a six hour day for tipped workers. This includes requirements to pay for a full shift if one is cancelled with less than 24-hour notice.
  • Short- and long-term disability protections for Union members.
  • Tipped workers will now receive double their hourly rates to be capped at the non-tipped members minimum for all sick, vacation, as well as short- and long-term disability calculations.
  • Healthcare benefits to be fully preserved with premiums to not increase over the life of the worker’s contract.
  • Pension rights that are fully preserved even in the event that a property is sold.
  • More effective grievance and arbitration procedures to protect a member’s rights under their contract.

*The new terms of the contract regarding grievance and arbitration include the following steps:

  • Management and a representative from the Union will meet to attempt to resolve the issue.
  • If this initial meeting does not resolve the issue, then a mediator will be present at a second meeting.
  • If this second meeting does not resolve the issue, then a arbitrator that has expertise in the industry can step in to issue a legally-abiding decision.

“We have said throughout this campaign that teaching history should not mean re-living it at work,” said John Boardman, executive secretary treasurer for the Union. “Now, our members can take pride in the fact that they have won twenty-first century working conditions at Colonial Williamsburg.”

Earlier this month, the Union, *which represents just over 200 CW workers, held several protests during the Grand Illumination festivities where workers picketed in front of several CWF establishments after their contracts with the Foundation expired on Nov. 30. During this time, the Union also called for a boycott of Chowning’s Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern, the Williamsburg Lodge, and the Williamsburg Inn, citing employees’ low wages and long work hours.

Negotiations between the Union and CWF started this past May over a contract that, according to Boardman, dated back to the 1960s.

*Every member of the Union voted unanimously to approve the ratification of the new contract, which, UNITE HERE! Local 25 Director of Communications Benjy Cannon noted to WYDaily, does not happen very often.

*”The fact that the workforce is so thrilled with the agreement is the most that any union representing them can ask for,” said Cannon. “We also know that without our members’ tireless advocacy — the picket lines, leafletting, delegations, organizing, and boycott call — a contract this strong wouldn’t have been possible. We’re more focused on that outstanding outcome than any of the demands which fell short.”

“By the end of the negotiations, the overwhelming majority of our members’ demands had prevailed,” said Boardman. “That is a testament to the power of fighting together for wages that can pay our bills, for the right to have a life outside of work, and for the dignity that every worker deserves.”

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Living Wage Calculator, the new contract’s wages increase will bring Union members’ rate closer to a living wage in the City of Williamsburg, which is estimated as $16.33 per hour for one adult without children.

*Ellen Peltz, Public Relations Manager for CWF, told WYDaily, “With a contract in place that benefits everyone, as we have sought for so many months, we can close out 2021 on a positive note and look forward to a prosperous new year.”

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