The National Labor Relations Board has found that the Hotel Bel-Air violated federal labor law by offering severance packages in exchange for a waiver of recall rights to laid-off employeeswithout bargaining to impasse with the union representing its workers. The hotel, on the west side of Los Angeles, laid off about 250 union workers when it temporarily closed in 2009 for renovations.
In its Sept. 28 decision, the Board ordered the hotel to meet and bargain with UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents the hotel workers, regarding the effects of the temporary shutdown, and, at the request of the Union, torescind the waiver and release forms signed by union members in 2009.
According to the Board decision, the hotel bargained with the union for nine months about the terms of a separation agreement and recall rights for employees who would lose their jobs during the renovation. While the parties were engaged in a series of “off-the-record” discussions to narrow their differences, the hotel on its own contacted its employees and offered them severance payments in exchange for waiving their right to return to their jobs upon Hotel Bel-Air’s reopening.
Hotel managers claimed they had reached impasse with the union and said the Board shouldn’t consider the “off-the-record” exchanges to be a continuation of bargaining. But the Board rejected that view, finding that anything that creates a new possibility of fruitful discussion breaks an impasse. Under Board law, a union and employer must bargain over layoffs or the effects of layoffs until the parties reach an agreement or arrive at legitimate impasse.
The Board further found that the hotel engaged in unlawful direct dealing by contacting the employees about severance packages without going through the union.