WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Hospitality workers at Colonial Williamsburg are celebrating the signing of new contract that brings significant, immediate pay raises and other major changes after months of negotiations and organizing.

UNITE HERE Local 25, the union that represents the workers at Colonial Williamsburg’s hotels and restaurants, says the four-year contract is almost a complete re-write of the previous one.

“We have said throughout this campaign that teaching history should not mean re-living it at work,” said John Boardman, the union’s executive-secretary treasurer. “Now, our members can take pride in the fact that they have won 21st Century working conditions at Colonial Williamsburg.”  

Workers had been calling for better working conditions in pay, after seeing extended lay-offs during the pandemic. Grievances included mandatory overtime and six-day work weeks that they say left workers, many of which are Black, exhausted and away from their families.

“Their bodies are breaking down. They are not able to spend time with families. Children are not getting their parents home in one piece so that they can do homework together,” said Boardman in a Zoom interview.

Most recently, workers had rallied and formed picket lines throughout the month of December, sharing their to guests and the greater community during Grand Illumination.

The new contract raises wages this month from a non-tipped minimum of $12.50 an hour to $15.50. That goes up to $18.50 by 2025.

“By the end of the negotiations, the overwhelming majority of our members’ demands had prevailed,”
Boardman said. “That is a testament to the power of fighting together for wages that can pay our bills, for the right to have a life outside of work, and for the dignity that every worker deserves.” 

There are also significant changes to overtime policies, with time-and-a-half pay for workers who don’t get two consecutive days off, the end of mandatory extra rooms for housekeepers and a new system for assigning overtime based on a volunteer rotation.

There’s also a guaranteed 8-hour day for non-tipped workers and a 6-hour day for tipped workers, with requirements for pay if the shift is canceled with less than 24-hour notice.

The are also several other guarantees and benefits, including preserved health care benefits and no increase in premiums and pension rights preserved even if the property is sold.

Another win for the holiday season: tipped workers will get a $500 ratification bonus and non-tipped will get a $1,000 bonus in their next paycheck. That’s on top of $1,000 bonus at all union members receive during contract negotiations, the union said.

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