Berkeley Marina Radisson Hotel workers and their supporters were celebrating victory Thursday, with the news that hotel management had accepted unionization.
“It’s a big victory,” said Stephanie Ruby, an organizer with the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee Local 2850, which had supported some 200 Radisson workers in their nine-month unionizing effort.
Ruby’s elation was tempered, however.
“It’s not over until the workers get a contract,” she said. “Justice will not be served until people like Addie Washington, who has been there 28 years, have a pension.”
Community support on the frequent picket lines, included religious leaders, the Gray Panthers and elected officials, Ruby said. A boycott of the hotel was honored by Berkeley city government and groups such as the Berkeley Symphony, the American Association of Sociologists and others. Pressure mounted when the National Labor Relations Board made the decision to go to bat for the workers in a hearing, scheduled to begin Aug. 1, where the hotel faces multiple charges of unfair labor practices, she added.
Brij Misra, general manager of the hotel, made the announcement in a press release. He declined to comment beyond the written statement.
“The Radisson Berkeley Marina Hotel has agreed to recognize HERE Local 2850 as the bargaining representative for all employees at the hotel,” he said. “The Hotel recognized that its standing with the city of Berkeley was undermined by the divisive campaigning being targeted at its customers. After discussion with Mayor Shirley Dean, the hotel’s owners agreed to let Local 2850 represent the employees in discussions with management.”
Misra went on to say that he hoped the animosity was in the past.
“We have our sights on continuing to work for the best interest of both the hotel and the associates,” he said.
Dean affirmed that she had encouraged unionization in discussions with one of the owners of the Radisson, Bob Boykin of Boykin Hotel Properties, L.P.
“Absolutely, I am pleased, cautiously pleased,” she said, echoing Ruby’s concern that the hotel move toward the next step, negotiating a contract with its workers.
The story could end happily with the signing of a union contract, and a celebration of the lifting of the hotel boycott.
But there’s a wrinkle that Councilmember Kriss Worthington says might overshadow the festive mood. In a letter released to the council Wednesday, City Manager Jim Keene announced that the city had agreed Boykin’s plan to refinance the Marina Radisson. It is part of a $108 million refinancing that the hotel group is putting together. The Marina Radisson is one of the nine properties encumbered by the deal, so the city, which owns the land on which the hotel is built, had to sign off on the agreement.
Worthington, who has participated in a number of rallies at the hotel and who met with hotel management on behalf of the workers, said he wants to be sure the agreement to unionize is independent of the action of the city manager signing off on the refinancing deal.
The councilmember said he and Councilmember Linda Maio have formally asked the city manager to let the council view the entire agreement. This would likely be disclosed to the council in a confidential document or in closed session.
“Unless we know the details of what is in the refinancing, we can’t tell what it is about,” Worthington said, noting that the city manager’s memo said the deal is good for the city. “Why didn’t we get to look at it before it was signed?”
The city manager did not return the Daily Planet’s after-hours calls to his cellular phone.
The mayor, however, said she harbored none of the suspicions Worthington addressed.
“Refinancing has nothing to do with the union issue,” she said. “The city attorney has said that the two are not related.”