Bill Would Require “Labor Peace” at City-Subsidized Hotels

Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. says the requirement would protect taxpayers.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia’s hotel workers might decide to go on strike someday, but they won’t do it on the taxpayer dime if Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. has his way.

Goode last month introduced a bill (below) that requires hotels which receive support from City Hall — either by leasing public land to the project, or through financing assistance — to assure labor peace by having a collective bargaining agreement in place before the project receives approval. The agreement would have to include a “no strike” pledge on the part of the union representing the hotel’s workers.

Goode this week was careful to stress the bill wouldn’t affect hotels undertaken entirely as private projects.

“If there is no (city) financial interest, then it’s not a problem,” he said.

The bill comes at the end of a year in which the Pennsylvania Convention Center — subsidized by taxpayers — sought and got an agreement with most of the unions working at the center. That followed longtime complaints by the center’s leaders that unions were proving problematic in the task of luring and retaining big events to Philadelphia.

Goode said such events did not influence his decision to introduce the bill. Instead, he said — and the text of the bill states — that the aim is to protect City Hall’s investment. Such provisions have been part of previous approvals for city backing, he said: The bill would merely make it a requirement instead of a project-by-project decision.

Unite Here, which represents Philadelphia and Atlantic City hotel workers, did not return a call for comment. Neither did officials at Chestlen Development Group, Brook Lenfest’s development company that is building new hotels at 15th and Chestnut using $33 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to fund the project.

A spokesman for Mayor Nutter said the bill is being reviewed internally.  Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said his organization is also still studying the bill.

Some observers noted privately that the bill seems to give labor groups the upper hand in the fight to establish collective bargaining for the staffs at newly established hotels. Goode, who said union participation among Philadelphia hotel workers has declined from nearly 100 percent to 30 percent in recent years, didn’t seem to disagree.

“If it also gives a union an upper hand — in a situation where the city has a proprietary financial interest — that’s a good thing,” Goode said of his bill.

Goode said he expects the bill will get a committee hearing on November 19th.

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