In a rare move, a federal judge has ordered the Holiday Inn Express to reinstate 19 workers fired just before Christmas and recognize and bargain with their union.
The workers, who’ve come to be known as the “Rochester 19” were fired when new owners took over the hotel and proclaimed their opposition to unions. UNITE HERE Local 21, which represented the hotel’s workers for more than two decades, sought recognition by the new owners, CPMJ Enterprises, but was rejected.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis issued an injunction ordering the Holiday Inn Express to offer the 19 workers reinstatement to their jobs and ordering the hotel to recognize and bargain with Local 21. In doing so, Davis took advantage of a rarely used part of the National Labor Relations Act – the 10J injunction – to provide immediate protection when irreparable harm may occur.
In his ruling, Davis noted “substantial evidence demonstrating anti-union sentiment on the part of” the hotel owners.
Management argued the court should allow the National Labor Relations Board process to take its course. The National Labor Relations Board regional office in Minneapolis found merit to charges the employer violated federal labor law and the matter is now before an administrative law judge.
However, NLRB attorney Florence Brammer, arguing on behalf of the workers and the union, said a delay in reinstatement and recognizing the union would cause irreversible harm.
Judge Davis agreed.
“Completely eradicating the housekeeping and maintenance employees’ chosen labor representative, by what appears to be a successor employer, goes to the very heart of what the NLRA was enacted to protect,” he wrote in his ruling. “Injunctive relief is necessary because it will likely be months before the NLRB issues its final decision. The Court fears the longer Respondent keeps the Union at bay, the harder it will be for the Union to regain support.”
Local 21 Business Manager Dave Blanchard said the decision “vindicates the long struggle these wrongly fired workers have endured and the union’s position that this employer violated the law as a result of its heartless treatment of these employees.”
The injunction requires the hotel to return to the terms and conditions of employment that were in effect when the hotel was sold – the terms of the Local 21 contract. That means current employees, as well as those reinstated, “will see an immediate jump in wages and new benefits they do not currently have such as medical and dental insurance, vacation, sick pay, holiday pay, pension, life insurance and much more,” the union said.
Union Representative Brian Brandt said Local 21 is “optimistic that the hotel’s owners will finally do the right thing and bargain in good faith” with the union.