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Federal judge orders Anchorage hotel to recognize and bargain with union

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska to recognize and bargain with its employees’ union representative of over thirty years after two years of increasingly tense relations that included a host of egregious unfair labor practice conduct by the Hotel, including its suspensionand discharge of Union supporters, unilateral changes in the employees’ terms and conditions of employment, prematurely declaring impasse in negotiations,  and ultimately withdrawing recognition of the Union.

The preliminary injunction granted today by Judge Timothy M. Burgess will remain in effect until the NLRB’s administrative process is complete. Judge Burgess found that the NLRB was likely to prevail in its continued proceedings against the hotel, and that failing to issue an injunction at this point could cause irreparable harm to the employees and the public interest.

The NLRB Acting General Counsel has issued three complaints against the hotel, owned by Remington Lodging and Hospitality, since the dispute began in the summer of 2009, when the previous labor contract with UNITE HERE Local 878 was due to expire.   Two of those complaints were tried before an administrative law judge over the course of 6 months beginning in August of 2010; the third is pending hearing, currently scheduled for later this month.

As alleged, the hotel prematurely declared negotiations had reached impasse and began to unilaterally change terms of work, including raising the number of rooms to be cleaned per shift, eliminating paid meal breaks, and changing health insurance providers. When workers presented hotel managers with a boycott petition, several were suspended or fired. (They were later reinstated.) Hotel managers also unlawfully coerced employees into signing a petition to decertify the union, then ceased recognizing the union and stopped making payments to its pension plan.

Judge Burgess ordered the hotel to stop the unlawful activity, restore all prior contract terms, and enter into negotiations with the union if requested. Additionally, the order must be read to employees in English and Spanish by a high-level hotel official or by an NLRB employee in the hotel official’s presence.

Susannah Merritt litigated the injunction on behalf of the Petitioner, retired Regional Director Richard Ahearn of the Seattle office, on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board.  She was joined on the papers by Mara-Louise Anzalone, who represented the Acting General Counsel in the administrative trial of the first two complaints, and Anne Pomerantz, the Regional Attorney. 


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