Hotel execs, union leaders to seek solutions together

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12th edition of the Dean Leadership Series

Hotel executives, labor and union leaders, and Cornell faculty came together to discuss the future of labor relations in the industry Nov. 11 in New York City.

“There has to be a legitimate acceptance of the other side and the other side’s interests,” said D. Taylor, president of the labor union UNITE HERE. “We have to look at what allows companies to thrive and what also lets workers keep a standard of living that they can raise a family on. That is what the American dream is all about.”

Despite the complex challenges they face, the hotel executives and union leaders agreed they must work together for solutions.

“If issues aren’t addressed in negotiations, then they’re addressed through public policy,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “That’s not what the companies want, and it’s not what the unions want.”

As management and labor find new and better ways to negotiate, they must also capitalize on opportunities to work together to have a positive impact on the industry, participants said. Possible areas of industry-union collaboration are immigration reform and improving visa processes for foreign tourists.

“Elected officials are shocked when they see a union leader and a business leader walk into their office together,” said Durazo. “I don’t think we’ve even begun to tap the power that comes from working together.”

There are already several positive shifts in labor relations, the panelists agreed, including that they had all gathered to talk about each other’s goals and challenges.

“Here we are on the same stage with people who we once considered – and a lot of people in this room might consider – adversaries,” said John Ceriale, president and founder of Prospect Advisors, a hotel advisory firm. “I don’t consider my colleagues with the unions adversaries. I consider them partners.”

Ceriale, who has been a supporter of hospitality labor relations education, research and outreach at Cornell, continued: “I wanted to give resources to Cornell because I thought it was a great place where we could have intellectual integrity – where we could come together and speak about things in an open forum.”

Other panelists were Paul Ades, senior vice president of labor relations, Hilton Worldwide, and Dave Sherwyn ’86, J.D. ’89, the John and Melissa Ceriale Professor and academic director of the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations.

“We launched the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations in 2013 to modernize labor relations in our industry,” said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E.M. Statler Professor at the School of Hotel Administration, who moderated the discussion. “This panel was a very positive step in that direction, bringing together stakeholders with historically diverse goals to discuss the challenges they face and the opportunities they see for future collaboration.”

The event was the 12th edition of the Dean’s Leadership Series, co-presented by the School of Hotel Administration and the Cornell Hotel Society. The Dean’s Leadership Series was established in 2007 as a platform for industry leaders to discuss the most important topics facing hospitality and travel today. Hyatt and the Grand Hyatt New York were title sponsors of the twelfth edition of the Dean’s Leadership Series. USA TODAY was exclusive media partner. Other sponsors include Crescent Heights, Hersha Hospitality Trust, Hilton Worldwide, Hotel Business, HSyndicate, IHG, PwC, Questex Hospitality Group, and Talent Plus.

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