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Hyatt Regency Indianapolis Petitions for National Labor Relations Board-led Workers
Vote in Attempt to End Two Years of Dissention Between Management and Labor

By Bruce C. Smith, The Indianapolis StarMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 04, 2011--Searching for a way to end two years of union organizing and picketing, the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis filed a petition Thursday for a government-supervised election to determine whether workers want a union.

The election would be run by the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether the 140 workers at the Downtown hotel want to be represented by UniteHere, a national organization for hospitality workers.

Hyatt Regency managers said they and their employees are weary of picketing, boycotts, threatening phone calls to customers and other tactics that feel like intimidation and harassment by the union.

However, UniteHere officials say intimidation tactics have been used by hotel managers to try to discourage workers from organizing in pursuit of collective bargaining. The union also has been trying to recruit enough workers at the Westin Downtown and the Sheraton at Keystone at the Crossing for two years, but it never got enough to be recognized as the bargaining representative.

Workers in those hotels are not included in the petition for a secret election, which was filed at the NLRB regional office in Indianapolis late Thursday by the Hyatt Regency managers.

Hyatt Regency also went on the offensive against UniteHere in several other cities Thursday.

Managers of other Hyatt Regency hotels in California also challenged UniteHere organizing efforts by filing for NLRB-run elections that could block union activity if workers vote "no." Elections were requested among employees of the Hyatt Regency hotels at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and in Santa Clara and Long Beach.

The moves to block hotel workers from unionizing can be seen as part of a nationwide sentiment of union-busting that can be seen as politically inspired, said Indiana University assistant professor Joe Varga.

"This is almost a race to the bottom rather than trying to raise the pay and working conditions for people," he said.

In Indianapolis, UniteHere organizers declined to comment late Thursday about the Hyatt Regency's request for an election until they've had a chance to study the filing.

But managers of the 499-room Hyatt Regency at Capitol Avenue and Washington Street were blunt in the latest chapter in their war of words.

"Our associates have told me they are extremely frustrated with UniteHere's ongoing harassment and have asked that we help put an end to this kind of intrusive behavior," said Brian Comes, general manager of the Hyatt Regency.

He said the union has been calling guests and customers of the hotel, claiming there are labor problems and they should not stay at the Hyatt Regency. He said the tactic has cost the hotel business.

"The union's boycotts only bring financial harm to our hotel staff and put at risk Indianapolis' reputation as a premier city for conferences and events," Comes said.

"But what upsets our staff the most are the unexpected and unannounced visits by the union to their homes," he said.

Comes said the Indianapolis hotel's workers have become so frustrated with the union's organizing efforts that more than 100 signed a petition asking the NLRB for a secret-ballot election.

UniteHere is a national organization representing hundreds of thousands of hospitality industry workers, including many at other Hyatt Regency hotels.


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