, ,

Workers at Milwaukee’s Trade hotel seek union, accuse employer of unfair labor practices

Hotel operator denies interfering with organization efforts

Trade Hotel
Workers at the Trade Hotel in Milwaukee are working to form a union. (Evan Casey/WPR)

Hospitality workers at The Trade hotel in Milwaukee are working to form a union.

They filed a complaint over the weekend with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the hotel’s owner and operator, NCG Hospitality, of using unfair labor practices. In a statement, NCG Hospitality disputed those allegations, saying it “has not and will not interfere with the right to unionize.”

Union organizers say a majority of workers at the hotel — across the street from Fiserv Forum — signed membership cards and asked the company to recognize the union last Thursday

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The workers would be represented by the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Union, or MASH, which represents about 1,000 service workers at Fiserv Forum, the Deer District and downtown Milwaukee. 

Peter Rickman, president of MASH, said about 80 workers in housekeeping and food service at The Trade would be represented by the union.

The workers said in a letter to the company they were seeking better wages and a “meaningful voice” in shaping workplace policy.

“When it comes to compensation, it’s not about what’s ‘competitive’ with other employers — it’s about the pay and benefits we need to make a decent living, and what this hotel can pay,” workers wrote. “We know you can do better — and with the power balanced, we are confident we can improve things.”

On Friday, Milwaukee’s state legislative delegation wrote a letter to NCG and The Trade supporting the workers’ effort.

“We believe it is your obligation to follow the same path as employers across the street at Fiserv Forum,” the state lawmakers wrote. “Without massive taxpayer investments at all levels, there would be no Deer District, and therefore no Trade Hotel. What has been good for workers and other employers in the Deer District will be good for you at the Trade Hotel.”

Fourteen Milwaukee County Board members also sent a letter calling on The Trade to recognize the union.

When a majority of workers express interest in joining a union in written cards, federal rules say the employer is required to immediately bargain with the union or seek a formal election. If a company is found to be using unfair practices, it may be forced to recognize and bargain with the union.

Rickman said he believes the employer needs to respect the majority of workers and recognize the union.

“What’s good for the rest of the Deer District ought to be good for the official hotel of the Deer District,” he said. “Employers across the district, including Fiserv Forum and beyond, have all recognized the union when a majority of workers have signed cards.”

NCG Hospitality said in a statement it is committed to working with employees and responding to the notice.

“We respect the rights of our employees to explore unionization and are committed to ensuring all Team Members are offered fair compensation, benefits and treatment,” the company said, adding it worked with local unions during the development and construction of The Trade.

“We will continue to engage in open and constructive dialogue with The Trade Milwaukee Team Members and the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization,” the statement continued. “Together, we will strive to build an even stronger future for NCG Hospitality, The Trade Milwaukee, and the city of Milwaukee.”

The employer had not filed a request for an election as of Thursday afternoon, and the complaint filed with the NLRB was not available on the agency’s website. 

In a statement about the complaint’s allegations, MASH said workers were prohibited from talking to one another about unionizing, and that hotel management did not allow workers to post pro-union materials on company bulletin boards after workers asked for recognition.

NCG Hospitality said employees were allowed to talk about any topic freely, and said it did not remove union materials from “non-work related bulletin boards.”

“Our goal is to operate collaboratively and respectfully with union organizers to foster a positive environment for all our team members and guests,” the company said.