National Labor Relations Board Upholds ‘Unfair Labor Practice’ Charge Against Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Ithaca

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center held a Press Conference in front of the Hilton Garden Inn today which was attended by over 50 supporters of the Center. The Conference was held to announce a settlement released recently by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has upheld an unfair labor practice charge brought by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center against the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel for violating federal labor law on workers’ freedom of association. In the settlement with the Board, Hilton Garden management promised not to threaten employees with discipline for discussing terms and conditions of employment with each other. The settlement stemmed from the discharge of Housekeeper Michelle Lopez and management’s threat to fire workers who discussed her termination from the hotel.

As part of the settlement with Hilton Garden Inn, the hotel will have to post, for 60 days, a statement that tells employees that they cannot be threatened with discipline for discussing workplace conditions.

The victory was a partial one, said TCWC spokesman Pete Meyers. “We’re disappointed that the Board failed to challenge Michelle’s discharge, claiming difficulty in gathering evidence about management’s motivation. However, the protection for other employees is a significant gain.”

Meyers said that the Workers’ Center decided not to pursue the discharge case because of concern that the 5-member NLRB in Washington, now controlled by Bush administration appointees, would find in favor of management. Lance Compa, a labor law professor at Cornell’s ILR School, said, ‘”Unfortunately, with the NLRB in Washington tilting against workers’ rights, it has become very difficult for regional board offices to enforce labor law protections. Fortunately, this regional office did see fit to move against violations of the broader group of employees’ rights to discuss terms and conditions of employment without facing threats of retaliation by hotel management.”

The Workers’ Center is continuing to organize workers in the Ithaca hotel industry for better working conditions and wages. Said TCWC hotel organizer, Neisha Butler, “paying these workers $7.15 an hour, as these hotels do, and not providing affordable health insurance, is disrespectful of the important work these people do for the hotels, unfair to the workers’ families, and irresponsible in a community that values all our citizens equally.”