11/15/07

Unions cited in decert election irregularities

The Princeville Resort in Kauai has until Thursday to appeal an investigation declaring a September union vote aboveboard, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

The hotel contested the election, which gave no clear majority, on multiple counts, all of which were overruled by the labor board’s San Francisco office.

On Sept. 24, about 260 Princeville Resort workers cast their votes in the highly anticipated election between two unions and the hotel. Unite Here! Local 5 received the least number of votes and was eliminated, forcing a runoff between Local 142 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the hotel, or no union.

According to the board’s Nov. 1 report, the hotel disputed two specific issues, saying both violated the employees’ rights to a fair and reasonable choice.

In its first objection, the hotel said the National Labor Relations Board agent running the election arrived 10 to 12 minutes late to the final voting session, depriving employees of their right to vote. The agent did, in fact, arrive a “few minutes late,” according to election observers and the agent himself, though the parties disagreed on the exact time frame. However, the three waiting voters who left before the agent showed up later returned to cast ballots, multiple witnesses said.

According to the report filed by the board’s San Francisco regional director, Joseph Norelli, a 10-minute delay amounted to 2 percent of the total polling time, and “there is no evidence that this delay discouraged or disenfranchised a single voter.”

In its second objection, the hotel said there was electioneering by the ILWU observer at the polling site in the form of “prolonged conversation with (a) voter, knuckle handshakes and giving the ‘thumbs-up’ sign,” which the hotel said was an integral part of the ILWU’s campaign. But according to the witnesses, the ILWU observer “did nothing and said nothing to influence anyone’s vote.”

Citing a similar case when the thumbs-up sign was used at a polling site, Norelli stated that there was no evidence that the observer crossed the line or engaged in “impermissible electioneering.”

Norelli said that while the vote was not a “textbook example of perfection,” the objections did not warrant a recommendation to set aside the election or raise any issues that warrant a hearing.

Should the hotel choose to appeal, the claims and Norelli’s report will be reviewed by the labor board’s Washington, D.C., office. If not, the Honolulu office will schedule a runoff between the hotel and the ILWU.

Tom Cestare, officer-in-charge of the Honolulu NLRB office, could not specify how long either outcome would take.

Representatives from the Princeville Resort declined to comment via e-mail: “Our priority has always been, and continues to be the well-being of our associates. Hotel policy protects the privacy and confidentiality of associates in hotel-related issues and we have no comment at this time.”

(kauaiworld.com)

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