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Board to hear cases against Local 5


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled January hearings for two complaints filed against Unite Here! Local 5, the Hawaii hotel workers union.

Attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation of Springfield, Va., will be representing Brenda Lee Orr, a nonunion employee at Turtle Bay Resort and Grant Suzuki, a nonunion electrician at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa.

Orr alleges that union officials from Local 5 compelled her to pay dues for national organizing activities and a strike expense fund as a condition of employment.

Suzuki, who reached a prior settlement with Local 5 for an earlier complaint filed in March 2006, has also filed a subsequent one with the same allegations - that Local 5 forced him to pay dues for national organizing. Also, that union officials refused to provide him with a financial breakdown of union expenditures as mandated by federal law.

Both cases are scheduled to go before an administrative law judge on Jan. 6 in Honolulu. The two cases are part of an ongoing battle between nonunion advocates and union officials over whether they can force nonmember employees to fund certain activities.

As a result of the 2006 settlement, Local 5 was banned from charging nonunion members' fees for activities outside of collective bargaining, according to Foundation spokesman Will Collins. Also, United Here was required to post public notices informing hotel workers of their rights to abstain from union membership, he said.

The foundation says Local 5 compelled Orr and Suzuki to fund organizing activities far removed from their places of employment though both refused formal union memberships. It says Local 5 union officials also forced Orr to pay into a general strike fund intended to support strikes across the nation.

Unite Here! Local 5 financial secretary treasurer Eric Gill said the group, which represents 11,000 Hawaii hotel workers, disagrees and plans to do battle in court.

He said the strike fund was established in 2004 as a benefit for workers who risk losing work pursuant to a labor dispute in the event of a strike or lockout.

The foundation filed unfair labor practice charges against Local 5 last year, which were consolidated and scheduled to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board in January.