|By Curtis Lum, The Honolulu
AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 27, 2009 - --The owner of the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki said it will appeal a recent ruling by an administrative judge in favor of a labor union, saying the judge and a federal labor official showed "blatant unfairness and a complete disregard of the rights of employees."
Federal administrative Judge James Kennedy in late September ruled on 16 complaints of unfair labor practices against HTH Corp, owner of the 837-room hotel. Kennedy sided with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 on 15 of the 16 complaints.
The judge said HTH violated employee's rights and he ordered that HTH recognize Local 142 as the legal representative of the 360 hourly hotel employees. Kennedy also ordered the hotel to reinstate seven laid-off workers who allegedly were let go because of their union activity and told the hotel to bargain in good faith with the union.
But Robert "Mick" Minicola, HTH regional vice president, said yesterday that the hearing before Kennedy was "incomplete and unfair" because Kennedy refused to allow hotel employees to testify. Minicola said that in July 2008 a majority of the hotel's workers signed a petition to disavow a desire to be part of the ILWU.
"The hotel believes the hearing was incomplete and unfair because Judge Kennedy not only refused to allow the employees the right to testify, but also refused to enter their petition as evidence," Minicola said.
If allowed to testify, he added, the employees would have told Kennedy that the union lacked the support of a majority of hotel workers. He said the hotel will appeal Kennedy's decision to the five-member National Labor Relations Board in Washington D.C.
Dave Mori, Oahu director for the ILWU Local 142, said the union is reviewing its options on the appeal and declined to comment on specifics of the case. But Mori did say that he was not surprised by Minicola's comments about Kennedy.
"I find it typical of this hotel to accuse a federal judge and the labor board of being prejudiced," Mori said.
He added that the appeal could take up to a year to be resolved, meaning the seven workers will have to wait before they can return to their jobs at the hotel.
"The hotel's appeal comes as a great disappointment to the workers who were wrongly terminated because it delays their rights to be reinstated as the judge has ordered," Mori said. "Even if the hotel disagrees with the judge's ruling on the labor issues, the workers, to me, that's a separate issue."
Minicola also accused Tom Cestare, officer in charge of the NLRB in Honolulu, of favoring the union during the proceedings. Minicola said comments by Cestare to local media after Kennedy's decision was released showed a "pro-union prejudice and a blatant disregard of the NLRB's role as an impartial arbiter in union-management disputes."
Cestare yesterday said the role of his office is to remain neutral until a complaint is issued.
"Our role is investigatory until we issue a complaint," Cestare said. "Once a complaint is issued, we have a prosecutorial role and we want to win the case. So in that instance, yes, we're not neutral after the complaint is issued."
Cestare also defended Kennedy's ruling and said the judge is well-respected in labor law.
"The judge's decision stands on its own merit and the judge used what we would call 'black letter law,'" Cestare said. "You've got an administrative judge who has 40 years' experience in doing this. I don't think he minced words in that."
The hotel and the union have been embroiled in a labor dispute for more than four years. Local 142 was certified to represent the workers in August 2005, but has never received a contract with the hotel.
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.
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