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Labor Relations Advisor, April 2015

April 30, 2015

After publicized campaign, UNITE HERE wins representation of hotel workers in Cambridge

On April 11, UNITE HERE won representation rights after a secret-ballot election by workers at the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston-Cambridge.  A group of more than 100 housekeepers, cooks, and waiters voted between April 9 and April 11. The exact voting results was not disclosed.

Negotiations between the hotel and Local 26 for an initial agreement are set to begin in May. The vote concludes what UNITE HERE describes as a “more than 2-year public fight and boycott.”

In March 2014, workers, advocates, and students launched a boycott of the DoubleTree to support the workers’ unionization effort. At the time of the boycott, workers emphasized their desire for a fair process of representation where the employer consented to recognize the union. Doubletree management favored a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

The workers asked Harvard to take a position in support of the workers’ right to organize. While the hotel is not operated by Harvard, it is located in a building owned by the university.  The university, however, chose to stay out of the dispute. Bill Murphy, Harvard’s director of labor relations said, “The University will support any fair process for unionization that is agreed upon between Hilton and Local 26.”

A few months later, the workers organized a 24-hour work stoppage on November 21, 2014. According to UNITE HERE, this was the first hotel workers’ strike in Boston in more than 100 years.

Historic discrimination case reaches partial settlement where union will pay $12.7M

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association “SMWIA” reached a partial settlement in April, 2015 to create a fund to make back pay awards in a race and national origin discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 1972 by the Justice Department, The New York State Human Rights Division and New York City under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Local 28 had denied black and Hispanic workers admission to the union. The EEOC took over the case in 1974.

The partial settlement will provide back pay owed based on work-hour disparities based on race from April 1991 through June 2006. According to the EEOC, the estimated amount the union will pay is $12.7M over the next five years. The settlement also includes reforms to equalize work opportunities for non-white and white union members. A hearing is set for July 14 to determine approval of the proposed settlement.

According to the EEOC, the case has yielded numerous decisions including a 1975 discrimination finding and recently, in 2008, a partial settlement for $6.2M in back pay claims from January 1984 through March 1991.

"I am pleased that we have been able to negotiate this partial settlement that includes strong injunctive relief as well as individual relief," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "This case demonstrates EEOC's longstanding commitment to achieving equal access to jobs regardless of race."

SEIU reaches agreements with two employer associations covering almost 10,000 Chicago janitors

The Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) Local 1 reached tentative agreements with two employer associations in early April. The agreements were approved by an “overwhelming majority” on April 10, 2015, according to a union announcement.

Local 1 first reached an agreement with the Building Owners and Managers Association (“BOMA”)/Chicago on April 1st covering 5,685 janitors in downtown Chicago. The next day, a separate agreement was reached with the Suburban Contractors Association to cover 4,200 janitors who work in commercial office buildings in the Chicago suburbs.

Both three-year settlements include wage increases and fully protected employer-paid health care. In addition, the union achieved its goal of narrowing the wage gap between suburban and downtown works.

“These economic gains will directly benefit our region’s economy for years to come, helping hardworking families build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1.

According to the union, Chicago Public School janitors and others are hoping to follow the standards set this new agreement between BOMA and Local 1.

Neither the union nor the management associations have released additional details of the settlements.