Despite favorable rulings by the National Labor Relations Board and federal judges for union workers at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel, UNITE HERE Local 878 says its six-year battle with hotel management isn't over.
In a rally Wednesday, about 150 protesters walked the sidewalk perimeter around the downtown hotel chanting, "What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? Now."
For years, Sheraton's union employees have asked hotel management to renegotiate the contract they've been working under for more than 30 years, said Marvin Jones, president of Local 878, a union that represents about 1,600 of the state's hotel, restaurant and culinary workers.
Jones said conflict at the 370-room hotel started soon after Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. purchased the Sheraton in December 2006 and Remington Lodging and Hospitality, a Texas-based agent for the new owner, took over management.
In 2008, Remington and the union began contract negotiations but never settled on an agreement.
According to Jones, Remington carried out an anti-union campaign that unfairly cut hours, worsened working conditions and threatened the benefits of union workers. The union workers filed more than 40 unfair labor practice charges against the company.
Remington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In two separate rulings, a federal judge largely sided with the union, finding that Remington failed to recognize Local 878. The National Labor Relations Board in 2013 ordered that Remington "cease and desist" from 26 practices including failing to bargain with the union, unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of employment and promising employees favorable treatment if they dropped their union status. Remington has disputed the findings.
A federal judge also ruled that Remington must reinstate three fired workers, including 49-year-old Gina Tubman, who marched Wednesday with a sign that called for job security.
Tubman said she was fired in 2010 after she was seen handing out fliers protesting the Sheraton's employment practices. She had worked as a waitress at the hotel for about 13 years and said her workload ballooned after new management took over. Martin said she was no longer just a waitress but also a cashier and a dishwasher.
Five months after her firing, she was brought back on as an employee by court order.
When asked why she stayed at the Sheraton, Tubman responded, "Because this has been my home for so many years and my co-workers are my family and what else would I do? I'd love going to work if they'd treat me right."