Investigation confirms labor law violations at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
An investigation by the National Labor Relations Board found “sufficient evidence” to prosecute 43 labor law violations at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn as employees attempted to unionize, according to a press release from the hospitality union Unite Here Local 2.
Workers at the luxury Boyes Hot Springs hotel have sought to unionize since fall, a practice common at Fairmont hotels around the Bay Area.
“Instead of respecting our decision to unionize, the hotel has tried to intimidate, threaten, and bribe us,” said Carlos Castillo, a housekeeping houseman at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for 13 years, in the release. “But we haven’t let their illegal actions stop us. We have stayed strong, and we will keep staying strong because we deserve good jobs, safe working conditions, and respect.”
The three-month investigation noted 43 violations, including illegal threats of reprisals against employees for engaging in union activities, interrogation of employees about their union activities, and promising a promotion to an employee if he refrained from union activities.
According to union spokesman Ted Waechter, in February workers announced to hotel management their intent to unionize with a petition, although the staffers started to sign union cards last fall. Employees also demonstrated against the anti-union activities of the hotel’s management in February.
“They need to stop union busting,” Waechter said, referring to the hotel management’s actions as those creating “a hostile work environment.”
Fairmont officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment nor did spokeswoman Kerrie McHugh from Brookfield Asset Management, which the San Francisco-based hospitality union of 15,000 workers claims booked rooms to watch employees. Phone calls were made to spokespeople at the National Labor Relations Board but unreturned.
The hotel employs roughly 250 workers.
Better wages, health care, working conditions and respect represent four of the key tenets sought by the hotel workers, who say their compensation is substantially inferior to those of union workers at other Fairmont hotels in San Francisco. For example, housekeepers at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn make $21, compared to $28.10 at the Fairmont San Francisco.
Many of the violations found by the labor board name Susy Goodacre, director of food and beverage operations of the Sonoma Mission Inn, who allegedly questioned employees about unionizing activities among staff. She also threatened retaliation for engaging in union organizing, telling multiple employees they “had a choice not to work there.”
An “impression of surveillance” was created by multiple members of Sonoma Mission’s management, including human resources manager Samantha Nanes, who took photos of employees handing out union literature on a public sidewalk.
In the press release, Sonoma Mission Inn cook Aaron Brumley said the tactics used by management “crossed a line.”
“The first time a union-buster came up to me, I said I was too busy working to talk. Then he came back with a second union-buster, and I said the same thing. A few days later, I was working in a room off the kitchen when I looked up and saw four union-busters in the doorway, and one of them said, ‘We want to talk to you. We think you have some misunderstandings about unions,’” Brumley said. “They were physically blocking me in, like they were trying to intimidate me. That’s not right, and I’m glad the hotel is being held accountable.”
Labor consultants for the Mission Inn, Eduardo Padilla and Jaime Brambilla, allegedly promised employment benefits if employees rejected the union, according to Labor Board documents. Alejandro Rique-Gamboa, another labor consultant for the hotel, implied that collective bargaining with a union to gain higher wages was “futile,” saying the hotel could only control wage increases.
To rectify the labor violations, the Labor Board has required management to post information about employees’ right to organize.
“To resolve and remedy (NLRB) Region 20’s findings, the Fairmont Sonoma has agreed to multiple concessions — including instructing employees about their rights at work and granting the union equal time should the hotel conduct further meetings about unionization — and to refrain from further violations of the National Labor Relations Act,” according to the press release.
The timeline surrounding a union vote is undetermined at this point, Waechter confirmed.
The 226-room resort at 100 Boyes Blvd. is owned by Chicago-based Brookfield Asset Management, one of the world’s largest asset management companies, and operated by French hospitality company Accor.