On April 30, Aston Hotels & Resorts settled unfair labor practice charges filed by UNITE HERE Local 5 over allegations that the hotel company violated federal labor law by intimidating and harassing workers at the Aston Waikiki Beach and Hotel Renew. The Aston Waikiki Beach and Hotel Renew employ 160 and 25 workers, respectively.
Aston’s settlement comes without the issuance of a complaint, the admission of any violation of the law or the imposition of any penalty, but it does require Aston to post notices in both hotels, informing employees of the settlement and that workers have a right to organize for a fair process to decide whether to form a union. The notice confirms to workers that the hotels “will not interrogate you about your union membership, activities, and sympathies” and “will not threaten you with adverse job consequences if you engage in union or other protected and concerted activities.”
In February of 2015, workers began organizing for a fair process for union representation. Workers from various departments voiced concerns about the lack of respect from management. According to Local 5, the hotels reacted by organizing an aggressive anti-union campaign that included threats, interrogation and surveillance.
According to Aston, however, most of the eight unfair labor practice charges related to an old employee handbook which Aston had not yet revised to comply with very recent NLRB decisions in cases involving mainland companies not related to Aston. Working with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Aston says it revised its employee handbook to clarify and correct the rules and policies questioned by Local 5.
“This isn’t about the handbook; this is about my coworkers and me being harassed to sign against the union,” said Cecilia Aradanas, a housekeeper at the Aston Waikiki Beach.
Aston is also contradicting the claim that it waged a campaign against workers, instead stating that the settled charges stem from a Local 5 campaign to force Aston to “waive the right of its valued team members to decide for themselves in a secret ballot election conducted by NLRB whether they wish to pay a significant part of their paycheck to Local 5 in order to be able to continue working.”
“Aston believes that the majority of its team members benefit from their union free status, which may explain why Local 5 has not simply asked the NLRB to conduct an election and let our team members decide instead of trying unsuccessfully to harass our team members and disrupt guest services,” said Kelvin Bloom, a spokesperson for Aston Hotels & Resorts, LLC. “We appreciate the assistance of the NLRB in successfully resolving the charges and we remain very proud of our valued team members’ continued support despite the periodic distractions from Local 5.”
“I’m glad we stood up to Aston for bullying us,” said Tino Fabro, who also works at the Aston Waikiki Beach housekeeping department. “Now that the federal government has stepped in, we hope that management actually follows the law. They said before that it will stop, but it never.”
“It’s great to hear that management is acknowledging that they shouldn’t be intimidating and threatening us,” said Mary Jane Padaca, a housekeeper at Hotel Renew. “We will continue to hold them accountable to that.”
Local 5 represents approximately 10,000 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada.