Cuomo goes after Sam Chang as union drama unfolds

Employees of hotel at 52 William Street had voted to join the HTC

From left: Sam Chang, 52 William Street and New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council's Peter Ward (Credit: Google Maps)
From left: Sam Chang, 52 William Street and New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council's Peter Ward (Credit: Google Maps)

UPDATED, 9:14 p.m. Dec. 10: Hotel union drama appears to be behind a $2 million lawsuit against Sam Chang. And now Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the prolific hotel developer in his crosshairs.

After the cleaning workers at his Club Quarters Wall Street hotel voted to join the New York Hotel Trades Council over the summer, Chang abruptly fired them about two months later, according to the New York Daily News. A total of 48 workers were out of a job by early August, and Chang transferred management and operation of the hotel to Radisson.

Cuomo promptly called on the state’s Department of Labor to investigate allegations of retaliation and worker abuse against Chang and his McSam Hotel Group.

“New York is a proud pro-union state, and allegations that owners of the Radisson Hotel New York Wall Street brazenly retaliated against workers simply for exercising their right to organize are completely unacceptable,” Cuomo said in a statement.

McSam Hotel Group attorney Steven Swirsky disputed the notion that it was the company that fired the workers.

“McSam Hotel Group never hired or fired any employees,” he said in a statement. “Those decisions are made by the management companies. If there is an investigation, we will cooperate.”

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The Hotel Trades Council, one of the state’s most politically active unions, has for years watched Chang build a slew of nonunion hotels across the city — taking advantage of zoning that does not require political approval. In turn, the union has pushed for such projects to require a special permit, which would fall into the City Council’s domain.

“Sam Chang is one of the worst anti-union employers I have witnessed in more than 40 years with the hotel union,” HTC president Peter Ward said in a statement provided to The Real Deal. “He is defining a new and dangerous breed of anti-union hotel developers and operators whose deplorable treatment of workers is an approach we simply can’t allow in New York City.”

The workers at the Wall Street hotel had voted 32-8 to unionize, partially because of allegations that management had been abusing workers for years, according to the Daily News. HTC has been helping the fired workers find temporary jobs and land unemployment benefits since.

Separately, Club Quarters Management Company, which has been operating the hotel for more than a decade, is suing Chang’s company for $2 million over breach of contract allegations at the Wall Street hotel, along with hotels near Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

As part of its suit, Club Quarters claims that McSam did not pay a termination fee, nor did the company give employees working at the Rockefeller Center and Wall Street hotels the chance to keep their jobs despite promises otherwise, which led to about $1.3 million in losses.

Chang had purchased the three hotels from Rockwood Capital in late 2016 and early 2017. He paid $95 million for the Wall Street location.

This story has been updated with a comment from McSam Hotel Group’s attorney.