July 30, 2004 – The National Labor Relations Board has issued several rulings that work to the advantage of the nearly 300 hotel workers slated for termination at the end of August when the Grand Beach Palace Resort closes indefinitely for renovations.
The Palace Resorts chain in Mexico acquired the former Renaissance Grand Beach Resort nine months ago.
According to local labor leader Randolph Allen, the NLRB ruled on Thursday that because Palace Resorts management took over the hotel's operations without closing the doors or filing new employee documents with the Labor Department, it must give the employees about to be terminated a chance to get their jobs back when the property reopens after renovations are completed.
However, Charles Engeman, a lawyer representing the resort management, disputed that.
The NLRB also granted the workers the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by the United Steelworkers union. Union representatives asked the NLRB on July 1 to allow an election. That was the day after the resort management announced the hotel would close for renovations on Aug. 28 and terminate all workers at that time.
The NLRB also increased the number of workers to be included in the bargaining unit, ruling that five housekeepers identified by the hotel management as supervisors were not.
"There was a decision issued by the NLRB yesterday," Engeman said on Friday. "It did order an election, and it said some housekeeping supervisors could be included in the bargaining unit."
Allen, an international representative for the Steelworkers, called the NLRB decision an important step toward protecting the rights of the Grand Beach Palace Resort workers. He also said he will organize an election before the resort's scheduled closing.
The hotel has to present a list of employees by Aug. 5, "and then any time after that we can have the date of the election," Allen said on Friday.
Allen also expressed satisfaction at the NLRB's ruling that Grand Beach Palace Resort management is, in fact, an employer. A week earlier, Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin had told the Senate Finance Committee that because of a loophole in the territory's plant closing act, the resort management was exempt from its provisions because it had been in business for less than a year. (See "Lawmakers Faulted on Plant-Closing Loophole".)
"This employer was a successor employer," Allen said. Management "tried to say they are new employees, but they are not. The only thing new here is the name of the company."
But Engeman said the NLRB ruling did not address the successor employer dispute.
It also did not address the issue of severance pay. Under the plant-closing act, because the current ownership took the hotel over less than a year ago, the workers are entitled to receive one week's severance pay, no matter how long they have worked at the resort. Some have been on the job for up to 20 years through changes in ownership or management by the Wyndham, Stouffer, Renaissance and Marriott chains.(See "Grand Beach Palace Resort to Close for Renovations".)
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