Workers at giant Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square vote to unionize

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It’s check-in time for the powerful hotel workers’ union at the Marriott  Marquis — the first time organized labor has penetrated the city’s largest hotel since it opened in 1985.

Workers at the giant hotel who had long resisted being being unionized voted to be represented by the Hotel Trades Council after management abruptly fired 850 employees in December.

And it will soon be check-out time for the revolving, top-floor View restaurant and other eateries at the hotel, which are slated to be replaced by yet-to-be-named outside operators. 

The nearly 2,000-room Marquis occupies a commanding location in Times Square. Although it remains open, it’s quieter than usual in the tourist-scarce “Crossroads of the World.” But two  milestone dramas are playing out behind its massive façade.   

The Hotel Trades Council finally found a way in to the previously non-union Marquis after the December jobs massacre.

Most axed Marquis workers were in the huge food and beverage department, which runs the View, Crossroads American Kitchen and other Marquis eateries as well as lucrative ballroom and banquet facilities.

Now, Marriott plans to replace the food-service team by tapping outside companies to run the operation, trade newspaper Total Food Service first revealed. TFS estimated the prospective deals’ value at up to $50 million, a figure that couldn’t be confirmed. Marriott was expected to choose operators by the end of March.

The Post has since learned that there are actually two separate requests for proposals – one to manage the restaurants and one to handle the banquets. The latter alone “can bring in $60 million in a normal, good year,” a source said.

Deals at the high-volume Marquis might appeal to such major hospitality outfits as Patina Restaurant Group, Legends Hospitality, Restaurant Associates, Great Performances and Union Square Events, but it was not known which if any of them had made offers.

Marriott had long managed to keep the union at bay by paying Marquis staff slightly more than union wages at other hotels, although benefits were less. But the sudden layoffs of 850 workers prompted housekeeping and other employees to vote to accept union representation.

“When Marriott fired its 850 workers,  many of the remaining employees immediately contacted the HTC,” the union boasted in its monthly newsletter. “This victory marks the end of a 35-year union avoidance campaign at the hotel.”

A Marriott spokesperson said, “We have recognized the Hotel Trades Council as the bargaining representative” for the housekeeping department and, “The parties are in negotiations over an initial union contract.”

Despite the workers’ vote, the Times Square buzz was that Marriott let in the union in exchange for the HTC’s agreeing not to contest the food-outsourcing plan – which couldn’t be confirmed. Reps for Marriott declined to comment on any aspect of the situation and the union didn’t return a call.

The outsourcing contracts  would be on a “fee” basis, where Marriott would pay an operator a fixed amount to manage the restaurants and banquet operations while incurring no direct labor costs for the hotel. An industry source said that the View and the hotel’s current  other restaurants, which are currently  closed, would likely be replaced by new concepts in 2022.  

The Marquis developments come in the midst of the pandemic-driven lodging-industry crisis that has seen about twenty Big Apple hotels close, including the Roosevelt, Pennsylvania and Hudson. The benchmark industry metric known as RevPar, or revenue per available room, tumbled 71.2 percent in 2020, according to authoritative PwC Manhattan Lodging Index.

The Marquis is owned by Host Marriott and managed by Marriott International – separate companies formed when the original Marriott Corporation split into two in 1993.

Although it’s credited with helping to revitalize once crime-ridden Times Square, the Marquis has long been a flashpoint in city politics. The Giuliani administration was condemned for allowing the demolition of several old Broadway theaters to make room for it in the 1980s, when Times Square was full of muggers, drug dealers and prostitutes.

Some elected officials and candidates have declined to hold events there because of its non-union status. In 2013, city controller and mayoral candidate John Liu tried to upend a “sweetheart” ground-lease deal between the city and Marriott.   

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