A Guide To Our Union's HEAT System

A union is only as strong as its members are well-organized and united.

In 2006, in preparation for our citywide contract negotiations, 27,000 members of the Hotel Trades Council came together under a new rank-and-file leadership organization which we call the HEAT SYSTEM ("HEAT" stands for "Hotel Employees Action Team").

During the 2006 contract fight, over 90% of the members of our union joined HEAT teams, more than 2,700 members worked as HEAT Captains and about 350 as HEAT Network Leaders. Largely because of the success of the HEAT System, we won the best Industry-Wide Agreement in our union's history. The HEAT System is now a permanent part of our union, and every good union member is expected to participate in and support the functioning of the HEAT System.

The HEAT System is an excellent way, not only for union members to participate more in the union, but also for the union to make the most of our members' talents, ideas, and energy.

Network Leaders and Shop Networks

The HEAT System consists of hundreds of HEAT SHOP NETWORKS throughout all the shops in our union. These networks are coordinated by HEAT NETWORK LEADERS. The Network Leaders are trained member-activists in our union who have agreed to commit substantial amounts of their personal time to work as volunteer organizers to help make the union stronger. Network Leaders are appointed by the President of the union.

HEAT Teams

Each HEAT Shop Network consists of smaller units known as HEAT TEAMS. Each HEAT Team is built around one union member, the HEAT CAPTAIN, who is also appointed by the President of the union and who has agreed to, and signed, the terms of the HEAT CAPTAIN COMMITMENT form.

HEAT Network

Each HEAT Captain serves as the leader of his or her HEAT Team. Each HEAT Team consists of approximately 5 to 10 union members. The members of the HEAT Team are selected by union representatives and the HEAT Shop Network Leader, in consultation with the HEAT Captain.

Community Networks

Each Network Leader is also assigned to communicate regularly with a group of approximately 50 union members who live in his or her local neighborhood. This group is known as a HEAT COMMUNITY NETWORK. The purpose of the Community Network is to increase our members' participation in the political life of their communities, to be better informed, and to bring union power into the community to influence important local decisions that affect the union, our members, and our families.

The HTC General Convention

Occasionally, the President of the union will convene a large gathering of elected and appointed leaders of the union to discuss subjects of great importance. For example, in both 2004 and 2006, contract committee conventions were held to make decisions about the union's strategy for the 2006 contract fight. Those conventions were great successes, and played a vital part in the union's victory.

Future gatherings of this type will be called the HTC GENERAL CONVENTION. The HTC General Convention will consist of the elected officers of the Hotel Trades Council, selected staff, the HEAT Network Leaders, the HEAT Captains, and other persons appointed by the President of the union.

HEAT Representatives

In addition to a Business Agent who is assigned by the union to represent you in the handling of grievances, and to enforce the contract in your shop, you are also represented by another union staff person, a trained union organizer, called a HEAT Representatives. Your HEAT Representatives coordinates the work of the HEAT System in the HEAT DISTRICT in which your shop is located. It's the HEAT Representatives' job to build and strengthen the unity and militancy of the union's membership.

Internal Organizing

The fundamental purpose of the HEAT System is INTERNAL ORGANIZING. This means communicating with and educating the members of our union about our union. HEAT Network Leaders and HEAT Captains are rank-and-file internal union organizers.

At any given time, we have approximately 40,000 members. Some of our members are stronger and better informed than others. Some understand better than others how much our members, and their families, depend on the strength of the union. That strength depends on our unity and militancy - the breadth and depth of our members' support for the union.

To negotiate good contracts, to win grievances against management, to protect the interests of hotel workers when important decisions are being made by politicians, we need the power that comes from being able to mobilize our great numbers.

It takes strong dedicated rank-and-file leaders who are willing to take the time to patiently build and maintain the union's strength.

Contract Negotiations

The Network Leaders and HEAT Captains, together with union officers and staff members, are on the union's CONTRACT COMMITTEE. When the union is preparing for contract negotiations, the Contract Committee plays an important role in helping to formulate the union's contract demands, in communicating with the membership, and in mobilizing the membership for a possible contract fight.

As members of the Contract Committee, the Network Leaders and HEAT Captains also attend many of the negotiating sessions in person, and assist the union negotiators.

Watching Management

It's also important to keep our eyes on management - not just during contract negotiations, but all the time. Our members are usually the first ones to know what management is up to, or planning. Members should always notify their union Delegate or Assistant Delegate about grievances and contract violations. But if management does something that might affect the strength of the union or the unity of our membership, the Network Leaders and HEAT Captains should also be notified. It's their job to make sure the union leadership is aware of such situations.

Strong Action

The HEAT System enables the union to MOBILIZE the membership better, whenever strong action is necessary. In preparation for contract negotiations, the HEAT System helps get the members ready for any possible strike. For example, the Network Leaders and HEAT Captains will get the members signed up for picketing schedules well in advance of a strike. They will also identify and recruit members for special jobs during a strike.

If necessary, to pressure management to negotiate in good faith, Network Leaders and HEAT Captains will know how to organize their networks and teams for different kinds of actions inside and outside the shops, such as delegations and petitions to management, rallies, and other concerted activities.

At other times, the HEAT System will mobilize members for action to help resolve important grievances, to support fellow members in other shops, and to show solidarity and support for non-union hotel workers fighting to organize their hotels, as well as workers in other unions.

In short, the HEAT System is designed to make it easier for our union to use the power we have from our large numbers to turn up the HEAT on management.

Organizing The HEAT Teams

If the HEAT System is new to your shop, HEAT Representatives, Business Agents, and other union staff will be contacting potential Network Leaders and HEAT Captains to sign up for the HEAT System and to decide which union members should be assigned to each HEAT Team.

It's the job of the Network Leaders to communicate with new union members and see that they are assigned to a HEAT Team. However, if you don't know who your Network Leader and HEAT Captain are, call the union and ask your HEAT Representative.

Activating Your HEAT Team

Once enough members have been assigned to your HEAT Team, it's also very important that you start getting your team activated. This means educating the members of your HEAT Team about the union and getting as many of them as possible to participate regularly in union activities.

HEAT Is Power

We are the strongest union for hotel workers in the world. We have the best contract for hotel workers anywhere, with the highest wages, and best benefits and working conditions. Our union has also long had a reputation for effective enforcement of our members' rights on the job.

But we can greatly increase our power and strength by doing a better job of organizing our members to participate in the union. That's what the HEAT SYSTEM is designed to do.

Your Union Is Counting On You

Never forget that the union is only as strong as its members. From now on, you should think of your HEAT Team as your responsibility. Whether you are a Network Leader, a HEAT Captain, or a HEAT Team member, it's your job to keep each other well-informed and active participants in your union.