|By Matthew Stolle, Post-Bulletin,
Rochester, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 3, 2007 - Nineteen former employees of the Holiday Inn Express who lost their jobs four days before Christmas after the downtown hotel changed hands won a major victory in court in their efforts to get back their jobs.
In a temporary injunction, a federal judge on Monday ordered the owner of the hotel, CMPJ Enterprises, to offer the former housekeepers and maintenance workers "immediate and full reinstatement" to their jobs under the terms and conditions that existed at the time of their dismissal.
Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota also ordered the hotel to "recognize and bargain" with the leaders of Local 21, the union that represents the 19 employees. Union leaders say the hotel has refused to bargain with them since the hotel was sold to the Texas-based firm in late December.
The judge gave the hotel five days to comply with the order and 20 days to file a sworn affidavit showing that it had complied.
"It's a great thing," said Brian Brandt, business representative for Local 21. "We knew that what this guy did was wrong, and it's certainly a vindication of all the effort and time that these workers have put into fighting this thing."
Greg Griffiths, the attorney representing CMPJ Enterprises, and Michael Bhatka, the hotel's general manager, did not return calls for comment.
Attorneys for the Minneapolis-based National Labor Relations Board sought the temporary injunction in order to return the situation to the status quo before the workers were dismissed.
NLRB lawyers also have sought a more permanent solution -- reinstatement and back pay for the workers -- before an administrative law judge in a separate legal process. But that process could take months before the full board issues its final decision. By that time, the judge said, the harm done to the union and its workers might be irreparable.
By ordering their reinstatement, Davis signaled his opinion that the union and the 19 workers would prevail in the end.
"There is substantial evidence demonstrating anti-union sentiment on the part of (CMPJ Enterprises), and that (it) has refused to bargain with the recognized union at the hotel," he wrote in his opinion.
In April, Administrative Law Judge Jane Vandeventer presided over a hearing to determine whether the new owners had violated the law. A ruling is expected within the next couple of weeks.
It's unclear is how many of the former employees will want to return to their old jobs at the Holiday Inn Express. Many have settled into new jobs at hotels owned by Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc., the company that owned the Holiday Inn Express before selling it to CMPJ Enterprises.
Janice Danielson, one of the 19 former employees, found a job at the Rochester Marriott after losing her job at the Holiday Inn Express. She said she plans to stay put.
"I'm happy where I am right now," Danielson said. She said she thought that some of the maintenance workers might want to return to their old jobs, but that many of the housekeepers would not.
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National Labor Relations Board http://www.nlrb.gov/
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