Housekeepers and other workers at the Holiday Inns in Burbank and Glendale, long discontented with their working conditions and their union representation, have selected a new union to bargain for them.
They voted last week to be represented by the Service Employees International Union in negotiations with hotel owner Joseph Perry.
Perry, however, has filed an objection to the election, claiming that a management employee helped organize the workers. The National Labor Relations Board will investigate, and a report on the allegation is expected within 45 days. The new union cannot be certified until then.
The election came almost a year after 28 Latina maids walked off the job at the Burbank hotel, claiming that local representatives of the union then representing them, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, had privately negotiated a "sweetheart" contract with Perry that cut their wages and eliminated medical insurance and other benefits.
About 30 housekeepers at the Glendale hotel subsequently walked out, alleging that they, too, had been unfairly treated by Perry and the union. The protesters also filed complaints against their employer and their union with the NLRB.
Perry, who also owns a Holiday Inn in Long Beach, has refused to discuss the allegations.
Representatives of the Hotel Employees union at first said the union acted in good faith in representing the workers and in negotiating what it acknowledged was a bad contract. This fall, however, the local disclaimed any right to represent the workers, paving the way for the election of a new bargaining agent.
The maids and other employees, who claimed that they had never voted to join Hotel Employees Local 531, voted last Thursday at both hotels in an election overseen by the NLRB. Service Employees Local 100 D, also called the Southern California Dental, Jewelry and Allied Workers Union, was endorsed by 149 employees and opposed by 9.
"Our intention is to get in there and negotiate them a contract they can be proud of, unlike the last one, which was disgraceful to the labor movement," Don Clemons, business manager of the newly selected union, said Friday. "This group definitely needs representation."
Many of the 180 hotel workers involved speak only Spanish and make little more than minimum wage.
Jaime Rodriguez, a local organizer for the new union, which represents about 1,500 diamond cutters and other workers, said the hotel employees were particularly insistent about worker representation in negotiations with Perry. The local has promised that employees will participate in all such meetings, he said.
Sam Nuckolls, an organizer for the former union, said he was happy that the workers he no longer represents were finally "happy about something."
"They're going to have the same problems with the owner that we did," Nuckolls said about the new union. "We fought three years with the owner and we didn't get anywhere."
Perry could not be reached for comment.