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Supreme Court declines to hear Pacific Beach Hotel case

By Star-Advertiser & Bloomberg News

LAST UPDATED: 11:57 a.m. HST, Mar 26, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the power of the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel over a labor dispute at the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki.

The justices today rejected an appeal from the company that runs the Pacific Beach Hotel, which claimed the NLRB wrongfully brought a complaint on behalf of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 over unfair labor practices. The hotel claimed the board isn't allowed to pass its authority to its general counsel when it lacks a quorum.

The labor board ruled that the hotel discriminated against employees and that it bargained in bad faith with the union, which first filed a petition for recognition in 2002. Administrative Law Judge James M. Kennedy ordered the company to reinstate seven workers and bargaining committee members who said they were wrongfully terminated. The NLRB upheld most of Kennedy's decision and also imposed new reccomendations, such as ordering Pacific Beach to pay the union's bargaining expenses.

The court in 2010 said the NLRB, which had operated for 27 months with only two of its five seats filled, needed at least three members to issue decisions. Voting 5-4, the justices said Congress didn't authorize the board to act with only two members.

Anticipating membership would fall below the required quorum, the board in November 2011 "temporarily" delegated its powers to the general counsel on legal matters that would normally require the board's approval.

The hotel asked the high court to review the case in light of a dispute over whether the board can even bring complaints. With only two members confirmed by the Senate and facing gridlock over other nominations, President Barack Obama in January appointed three members before seeking Senate confirmation, asserting that Congress was in recess. Those appointments are separately being challenged in other courts with Republicans arguing that Congress was still in session.

The case is HTH Corp. v Frankl, 11-622.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright's found hotel owner HTH Corp. and its top manager, Robert "Mick" Minicola, in contempt of court for failing to follow the National Labor Relations Act. He ordered Minicola to read the court's decision aloud to employees and that the hotel comply with an injunction issued in March requiring it to follow the National Labor Relations Act.

Seabright's contempt ruling also ordered Pacific Beach Hotel to pay back the U.S. Treasury and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 142 for related legal costs, and instructed the company to reinstate and give back pay to Rhandy Villanueva, a pro-union employee who the NLRB said was wrongfully terminated twice.

Villanueva, who was on the union bargaining committee, was first fired in December 2008 along with 32 others. A legal order reinstated Villanueva in 2010, but he was fired again a few months later.

During the past decade, the NLRB has charged Pacific Beach with numerous labor violations that include failing to bargain in good faith, discharging employees to discourage union activities, unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment, and interfering with the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

In December, Minicola, regional vice president of operations for HTH Corp., said the hotel complied with legal orders and that the NLRB charges were frivolous.

Minicola said the hotel, which employs 450 workers and supervisors, is not trying to keep the union out.

"We are trying to preserve the legal rights of our workers to choose whether or not they want to be in a union," Minicola said.

The ILWU has balked at a hotel proposal for an open shop, which would allow individual workers to choose whether they wanted to belong to the union, he said.

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Kapuna wrote:
HTH and Pacific Beach Hotel are engaged in illegal Union Busting activities. All Hotels in Hawaii should be employee owned and operated. so the fruits of their labor goes to those who work hard and earn it, not to corporate raiders.
on March 26,2012 | 06:47AM
kekelaward wrote:
Excellent idea! All profits to the workers....not useless union employees who are employed by the union and don't even do any kind of hospitality work.
on March 26,2012 | 07:46AM
kgolfinghawaii wrote:
Very good idea....kekelaward....
on March 26,2012 | 09:51AM
kuewa wrote:
Sounds good, but in reality this wouldn't work except with small operations. Many hotels already operate on a very thin margin. Without the bargaining power of the parent company, costs for nearly all vendor-supplied goods would rise. In addition, although it sounds good to be employee or family owned, that kind of set up often fails because of in-fighting among the employee owners as the business tries to grow. As far as unions go, well they can be irritating, but think back to what it used to be like without unions--- no job protection, few worker rights, no retirement plan other than SS. The supremes were correct to support the NLRB in this particular case, which is surprising given the nature of the current court.
on March 26,2012 | 01:27PM
frontman wrote:
Wise decision.......... a sign unabated union control is coming to an end in Hawaii.
on March 26,2012 | 03:14PM
9ronboz wrote:
How can any entity bargain in good faith with union?
on March 26,2012 | 11:43AM
saveparadise wrote:
Hotel workers cannot choose whether they want to be in the union or not. The Hotel cannot choose whether they want union or not. The union can choose who they want in. This gives the union incredible power. Government has created legal gangsters. But then again politicians are bought and paid for by the unions as well. Insanity continues.
on March 26,2012 | 02:39PM
9ronboz wrote:
gov:t didn't create lagal monsters. its the people who allow these illegals to operate today.
on March 27,2012 | 12:05AM
jeffreyandlisa wrote:
The Unions are the reason the Steel Mills closed in the Pittsburgh are 2 decades ago. Many workers lost everything they owned because of GREED.
on March 26,2012 | 04:10PM
Manoa2 wrote:
It was not GREED-- the steel mills did what they had to do to survive. It was economics and our system of free markets that led to the closure of the steel mills. Stee mill owners can only compete against foreign plants if they can go overseas where labor is cheaper than it is in the US and foreign workers work at pennies on the dollar. Now guess what? Those foreign mills are closing and going to less developed countries and to China where labor costs are even lower. Just as Auto manufacturing is going from Japan and Korea to Malaysia.
on March 26,2012 | 04:21PM
9ronboz wrote:
hey manoa, its the union that allowed a lesser grade of skilled labor, product and service. it was a better decision to go overseas to compete than to buckle down and prostitute with the unions.
on March 27,2012 | 12:09AM
GAC wrote:
corporate america owns congress, the ceos of corporate america makes too much money at the top. unions are here to protect the bottom half of working class citizens . if not for unions we would not have a middle class . just rich and poor. just look around . how much of the mom and pop stores you see. all the big name company are here , costco , walmart target . sooner or later we will need to bow down to them because the prices will slowly start increasing on the goods they sell due to no competition. congress needs force these corporations to not take manufacturing to other countries due to their cheap labor cost . keep jobs at home and force people that are living on welfare to start working in these factories. let them have no choice that they need to work or they stop collecting off the tax payer monies .
on March 27,2012 | 02:30AM
9ronboz wrote:
sad. our heart and soul
on March 27,2012 | 12:05AM
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