One of the most interesting parts of this summer has been seeing exactly what goes into union research. Most of it is just good civic engagement. A large amount of my work has involved government at the municipal level. When we hear about a new hotel project being developed, we want to keep track of where it is in the development process; that way, we can make sure that we approach the company at the right time to approach the workers and hopefully represent and defend them. Most of this is done through channels open to anyone. Applications for zoning and development are tracked by the city of Toronto, and provide information on many aspects of the project’s status. Local media and industry publications frequently have intermittent updates on major projects. If community opposition to a development presents itself, media coverage increases tremendously. Community anger can be over a range of things, whether it’s a building taller than the norm for a given area or supplanting a local landmark, but it does happen.
Looking at these different projects, you get a real sense of the hotel industry. For years, luxury and boutique hotels simply were not being built. Since 9/11, the mantra of hotel owners and operators has been “We’re not making money.” Things had been better until 2008, but the recent crash gutted the tourism industry all over again. Things do appear to be bouncing back, though, as condo and hotel complexes begin to submit applications, initiate construction, and move to expand the industry. A Tourism Toronto report of a few weeks ago made very clear that, at least within Toronto, higher-end hotels in particular have been doing very well. This makes it all the more important that we be diligent in helping protect these workers. It is too easy for hotel companies to claim that they aren’t making money, back workers into a corner, and reap the profits. That’s where we come in.