National Labor Relations Board Ruling Could Require Los Angeles Hotels To Reimburse Health Insurance Premiums to Workers
A decision by National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Arthur Rosenfeld could require the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council to reimburse hundreds of thousands of dollars that employees represented by Unite Here Local 11 have paid for health coverage since the hotels declared in July 2004 that contract negotiations were at an impasse, according to an NLRB official who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity. When contract negotiations are at an impasse, NLRB rules permit employers to implement conditions not included under the expired contract, such as a $10 weekly premium for health care coverage that hotels began collecting from workers after July 1.
The hotels had stated that negotiations were at an impasse in July because union officials were seeking a contract that would expire in 2006, when contracts between hotels and workers at cities nationwide are scheduled to expire. Representatives for the Los Angeles hotels said they would not agree to such an expiration date.
Rosenfeld ruled that contract negotiations in July were not at an impasse because hotel and union officials continued to discuss contract issues, the anonymous official said.
Unite Here represents about 2,600 hotel workers in Los Angeles. A union representative said that about 500 workers lost health coverage when hotels began collecting weekly premiums.
Richard McCracken, an attorney for Unite Here Local 11, said, "This is the first time there's been a neutral, authoritative evaluation of the bargaining situation, and the conclusion is that the union's the one that's right."
Fred Muir, a spokesperson for the hotels, said, "I don't think that this call from the NLRB today will change the dynamics of the talks." Muir said that the ruling would not affect the hotels' strategy or finances, and he added that the hotels could appeal the ruling to an administrative law judge (Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 1/27).