Nine months of protests ended in July with an agreement to unionize the workforce at the Berkeley Marina Radisson Hotel, but a contract has yet to be signed.
So organizers say they plan to keep protesting until they have a contract.
Stephanie Ruby, the lead organizer for the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee Local 2850, said Boykin Hospitality, the Cleveland, Ohio-based owners of the Berkeley Radisson and 33 other hotels, hasn’t come to the bargaining table.
Bob Boykin, president of Boykin Hospitality, said that it’s a scheduling problem and that talks will begin this month, though he’s not sure of the exact date. “We’ve just been scheduling around vacation conflicts with the lawyers and (union) members,” he said.
“It came down to our representatives and the union’s finding a common time when they can agree to a date. That’s really the facts as we’re aware of them,” he said.
Ruby said she hasn’t heard from them.
She said that Boykin Hospitality has taken a sophomoric stance to wait until they received all notification and forms from the National Labor Relations Board before they would negotiate.
“The decision was made a long time ago and everything has been sent out by the NLRB,” she said. “We don’t think it’s in good faith. They’re stalling.”
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent Federal agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act, which governs employer and employee relations and spells out guidelines that employers must follow. In May, the board issued a 30-page complaint citing 130 violations by Radisson management ranging from bribery to threatening workers.
The board began investigating charges of unfair labor practices at the Radisson and determined that the management was, in fact, at fault in many instances.
A formal hearing date before an administrative judge had been set, but Boykin settled with the NLRB on July 14, two weeks before the hearing. As part of the agreement, Boykin agreed to recognize the union and work out contracts for the workers, Ruby said.
The NLRB could petition to hold Boykin Hospitality in contempt of the settlement if they don’t come to the negotiating table.
Boykin said he is adamant – his company does not want to fight the NLRB and will negotiate.
“It’s fine if they want to unionize,” he said, explaining that he would have preferred holding off for a formal employee vote, rather than the “card check,” – a count of cards of workers supporting unionization.
“But it just wasn’t worth the effort to fight it,” he said.
Further, he argued that the complaints were linked to the move to unionize the hotel.
“We have never had any significant claim of unfair labor practices during the 24 years we have owned (the Radisson). And during the one year that the employees want to unionize, we have over 100,” he said. “It seems to me that there would have been a lot more activity prior to (this year).”
Ruby said that the company is still exploiting its employees and is retaliating against the union. She said that a Union Committee leader, a Radisson employee, has been repeatedly kept off of the work schedule.
“It’s for no good reason,” she said. “This individual had filed a sexual harassment suit against the company. We think its retaliation.”
Radisson General Manager Brij Misra was out of town and unavailable to respond to the charges. He told the Daily Planet, after the hotel agreed to recognize the union in June, that he was ready to work for the best interest of both the hotel and the associates.
Ruby said that the long standing boycott of the hotel, recognized by Berkeley city government and other groups, will continue until the workers have a contract.
Protesters are going to keep the Radisson’s “feet to the fire” by continuing to protest, she said. Last Friday, workers and supporters staged a “human billboard” protest along University Avenue that reminded passers by that the boycott was still in effect.
They plan to hold another rally on Sunday.