Sheraton Anchorage Lawsuit Against NLRB Dismissed
Judge Burgess Dismisses Anchorage Sheraton’s Lawsuit Against the National Labor Relations Board; Local 878 Files New Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against the Hotel On October 28, 2010, Judge Timothy Burgess, a United States District Judge based in Anchorage, Alaska, summarily dismissed the lawsuit brought less than five weeks earlier by Remington Lodging & Hospitality, the Anchorage Sheraton’s management company, d/b/a the Anchorage Sheraton, against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In response, Local 878 has now filed a new unfair labor practice charge against the hotel, alleging that the hotel’s lawsuit against the NLRB, like the hotel’s currently pending defamation lawsuit against the Union, filed on same day, was legally frivolous and unlawfully brought to impede the federally protected rights of Local 878 and the workers it represents. The Anchorage Sheraton brought this particular lawsuit against the NLRB, not Local 878, naming as the defendant Richard Ahearn, Regional Director for Region 19 of the NLRB, who has authority over private sector labor relations in a number of states, including all of Alaska. The avowed purpose of this suit was to stop, or at the very least delay, the NLRB from continuing to prosecute the hotel for multiple violations of federal law. Since May of this year, the NLRB has formally accused the Anchorage Sheraton in legal proceedings of having committed the following unfair labor practices, among others: • Bargaining with no apparent intention of reaching an agreement; • Refusing to meet to bargain with the Union at reasonable times/and or places; • Unlawfully changing the terms and conditions of employment for workers, including by increasing the number of rooms workers are expected to clean each shift from 15 to 17, no longer paying for meal breaks, and imposing a fee on employee purchases in the cafeteria; • Unlawfully subcontracting out bargaining unit work (the job of driving the hotel van); • Suspending and firing workers who exercised their federally-protected right to express their opinions about the hotel’s labor relations policies, e.g., their right to hand out leaflets and handbills in front of the hotel; • Interrogating workers regarding their support for the Union; • Telling workers that they would be fired if they refused to sign a petition withdrawing support for the Union; and • Unlawfully withdrawing “recognition” of the Union as the exclusive bargaining representative of the workers. Pursuant to the NLRB’s procedures, the Anchorage Sheraton has been placed on trial in the federal courthouse in Anchorage, in front of an Administrative Law Judge, where the NLRB has been presenting evidence in support of these charges. The Anchorage Sheraton, in a transparently desperate effort to fend off this prosecution, proceeded to sue the NLRB in federal court, demanding that Judge Burgess order the NLRB to put the pending trial on “hold” and instead hold an election among the workers to see if the workers actually wish to remain represented by UNITE HERE Local 878, their long-time union and the entity with which the hotel has been in a dispute for several years. Judge Burgess unambiguously, and without hesitation, rejected the hotel’s suit. He noted that the NLRB was doing everything in a manner that was perfectly in accord with its own rules and regulations, and also observed that if, in fact, the hotel unlawfully withdrew recognition of the union and coerced employees to sign a petition indicating their lack of support for the union, as the NLRB alleges, this “could have plainly created a tainted environment” in which no fair and impartial election could possibly be held. In his conclusion, Judge Burgess rejected the remainder of what he characterized as the hotel’s “scattershot allegations,” which he found to be “irrelevant and inapposite” to the question before him. In light of Judge Burgess’ decision, it is beyond reasonable dispute that the hotel’s lawsuit against the NLRB was both legally frivolous and brought for an unlawful purpose, as alleged by Local 878 in the unfair labor practice the Union immediately filed. As a remedy for this violation of the law, the Union will be seeking a ruling that the hotel pay back to both the NLRB and Local 878 all of the attorneys fees and costs those parties reasonably incurred in defending against the hotel’s suit.