Los Angeles Hotels Cease Weekly Health Insurance Premiums for Union Workers Involved in Contract Dispute
Officials for eight hotels negotiating jointly as the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council said they would no longer charge union workers $10 per week for health insurance premiums, the Los Angeles Times reports. The group made the announcement Wednesday in a letter to Unite Here Local 11 negotiators (Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 2/17).
Employers began charging workers the weekly premiums in July, after hotel officials said they had reached an impasse in contract negotiations. Under National Labor Relations Board regulations, employers can implement conditions not included in an expired contract if the two parties are at an impasse. However, NLRB late last month ruled that negotiations were not at an impasse because hotel and union officials continued to discuss contract issues (California Healthline, 1/28).
Union workers favor a contract that would expire in 2006, when contracts in other states also expire. Hotels operators have said they will not agree to a deal that gives the union "such national leverage," the Times reports.
About 500 of almost 3,000 insured union workers have lost health care benefits because they could not afford the premiums, according to union officials.
Hotel attorney Lisa van Krieken said the employers' decision was not influenced by the recent NLRB ruling. She added that the hotel officials "are not asking for anything in exchange" for the concession.
Union officials said that the hotels were trying to reduce future liability in the event that the hotels were required to return the payments. However, hotel spokesperson Fred Muir said, "That's not our motivation, but it would have that effect."
According to the Times, hotel negotiators could reach a settlement with NLRB to return the collected premiums or choose to contest the decision in court (Los Angeles Times, 2/17).