Union Forfeits Decertification Vote Rather than Risk Losing

Unions typically fare worse in decertification votes

A Holiday Inn
A Holiday Inn hotel / Wikimedia Commons
January 26, 2016

One of the most powerful hotel unions in the country disowned workers at a New Jersey Holiday Inn rather than risk an election defeat.

The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council Local 6 cancelled an upcoming election at the Carteret, N.J., Holiday Inn after a two-year battle to evict the union.

"The Union disclaims interest in the bargaining unit," union attorney Joseph Farelli wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to the National Labor Relations Board. "Please advise if you require anything further from the union."

A union spokesman declined to comment on why it abandoned the vote. The union's attorney did not respond to request for comment.

The NLRB, a federal labor arbiter that oversees union elections, cancelled the Feb. 12 secret ballot election upon receipt of the notice. Steven Weinstein, a veteran labor attorney representing Holiday Inn, said that his clients were caught off guard by the announcement.

"We were surprised to know the union was just folding up the tent and walking away," he said. "It is not exactly rare, but it is unusual."

The facility, which is located about 15 miles south of Newark, had been unionized for more than four decades. In 2014 several housekeeping and laundry employees petitioned the NLRB to hold a decertification election that would allow them to drop the AFL-CIO affiliated union. The union, which represents more than 30,000 workers mostly located in New York City, challenged that petition until approving an election on Jan. 7.

"In my experience, the union just got tired and frankly they knew that they didn’t want a loss," Weinstein said.

Unions generally fare worse in decertification votes than in other NLRB elections. The agency’s 2015 fiscal year report found that union’s prevailed in nearly 70 percent of all elections, but only won in 41 percent of decertification—or RD—votes.

The union has numerous resources to carry out an extensive election campaign. Members pay up to $73 per month in dues, as well as up to $200 in initiation fees. It collects $34 million in dues and fees each year and its membership rolls grew from 27,000 in 2013 to 31,000 in 2014, according to its most recent federal labor filings.

Weinstein has participated in hundreds of NLRB election filings over the course of his career. Very few of those cases have ended in the union walking away from the vote. The common reason for "disclaiming" a bargaining unit, he said, is for damage control from a public relations perspective.

"They do not want it on their record that employees did not want them," he said.

The company became convinced that employees would approve the decertification vote as the election approached. Union officials began to appear on grounds talking to workers, and several employees reported that they had received calls on their personal cell phones from labor organizers.

"The union used old fashioned tactics to intimidate the employees," Weinstein said. "Employees over time got more and more frustrated."

Weinstein said that the hotel welcomed the decision to drop the election.

"I think the employees seem to be happy that this is over and hopefully they stay that way," he said.

Published under: Unions