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Dispute Over Unionization at New Otani

December 29, 1996

* Harry Bernstein's attack on the New Otani Hotel & Garden (Commentary, Dec. 19) completely misses the point concerning the "corporate campaign" waged by Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union against the management of the hotel and the employees who would like to decide the issue of unionization by a federally supervised secret-ballot election. It is the union that seeks to avoid a secret-ballot election and is pressuring management to sign away the rights of the workers without a vote, by attempting to sabotage its business through intimidation of workers and scare tactics directed to potential sources of revenue.

Management of the hotel would never stand in the way of such a vote.

It is interesting to note that 14 employees have been with the hotel since it opened in 1977. An additional 50 persons have been employed there for more than 15 years. Of all the hotel employees employed beyond one year, 108 or 45% have been employed at the New Otani for more than 10 years. The average annual turnover rate at our hotel is 10%, an admirable percentage given that the national average, as reported in your newspaper, is 59.8%.

Bernstein makes reference to a National Labor Relations Board trial concerning three employees who the union contends were fired because of their pro-union activities. They were terminated because they violated time-clock procedures. This case is one of nine frivolous lawsuits brought forward by Local 11 to seek to damage the reputation of management. In the eight previous cases, the hotel was never found guilty.

Bernstein calls the hotel's request, first made in August 1994, to the NLRB for a secret-ballot election a "deceptive" move. Do we not still live in a democracy, Mr. Bernstein, where people can make choices safeguarded by privacy?

I ask this question because he refers to Local 11's call for a card-check vote to decide unionization. When cards are presented to a worker to sign, there is no privacy involved. If Local 11 truly believes it represents the best interests of the New Otani workers, it should have enough confidence to put the issue of unionization to a secret-ballot vote.

KENJI YOSHIMOTO

Executive Vice President

and General Manager

The New Otani Hotel & Garden

Los Angeles

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