David Bacon Stories & Photographs
Feds Charge Marriott With Massive Violations of Workers' Rights
by David Bacon

SAN FRANCISCO (4/26/99) -- Last week, after 18 months of exhaustive investigation, the National Labor Relations Board finally issued a massive complaint against the downtown Marriott Hotel, accusing management of having waged an extensive and illegal campaign against Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 2.

The nine separate charges include allegations that Marriott illegally fired several workers, and discriminating against union-represented workers in granting wage and benefit increases.

Many of the charges have their origin in the effort by a shadowy group, Associates for a United Marriott, to decertify Local 2 as union bargaining agent in the fall and winter of 1997. While decertification petitions were circulating in the hotel, the NLRB accuses Marriott of raising wages by 4% for non-union represented employees, while telling union-represented workers that they would only be able to get wage increases if Local 2 was no longer negotiating a contract.

"The message was, if you make the union go away, you can get these benefits too," room server Ramon Guevara, a Local 2 activist, told the Bay Guardian at the time.

A May 17 hearing has been set on the complaint. If Marriott is found guilty by an administrative law judge, it will be required to reinstate the terminated employees with back wages, and repay employees for health premiums they were forced to pay themselves for 16 months. Marriott would also have to post a public notice agreeing not to violate workers' labor rights in the future.

Contract negotiations at the hotel have been stalled for over a year.

In possible anticipation of the recent complaint, last October Marriott suddenly decided to give union-represented employees the same wage increases it had offered to non-union employees, and pay the difference in health insurance premiums. Before the complaint was issued last week, it also settled 63 other unfair labor practice charges. As part of this settlement, the NLRB has ordered Marriott to resume bargaining.

Marriott first proposed building the hotel in 1980, and won a city permit by agreeing to hire community residents to work in there. It also promised it would not oppose efforts by Local 2 to organize its employees.

But after welcoming its first guests in 1989, it fought union organizing efforts until an arbitrator, John Kagel, held in 1996 that a majority of its employees had signed union cards. Even then, according to the new NLRB complaint, its anti-union efforts didn't end, and the company quickly reached an impasse in bargaining. Meanwhile, hundreds of Local 2 members and supporters have organized noisy picketlines on the corner of Fourth and Mission Streets at least once a week, and have occasionally been arrested en masse for blocking traffic.

"Marriott should put its lawbreaking conduct behind it and move quickly to settle a fair contract," said Local 2 President Mike Casey.

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