On January 29, 2020, according to worker reports, a human resources officer told housekeeping department workers at Mr. C that hotel management had checked the files of all of its employees and would require many employees to reverify their authorization to work in the U.S. A significant proportion, if not a majority, of housekeeping department workers were among those required to reverify. Some workers later received a formal letter threatening potential termination if they did not comply.
Mr. C’s decision to require housekeeping employees to reverify their work authorization comes in the midst of a union organizing campaign. On November 1, 2019, housekeeping workers participated in an election to be represented by UNITE HERE Local 11. The union believes that once legal challenges concerning the election are settled, it will have prevailed and the hotel will be unionized.
On February 6, UNITE HERE Local 11 filed an unfair labor practice charge requesting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate whether hotel management’s reverification of employees’ work authorization was related to the unionization effort. The union also filed two additional unfair labor practice charges concerning alleged surveillance of employees and implementation of rules limiting the topics that housekeeping employees may talk about with each other at work. All three charges are pending investigation.
The practice of requiring workers to reverify their work authorization has been a focus of concern for immigrant and civil rights advocates in California. In 2017, the state enacted the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450), which among other elements prohibits employers from reverifying the employment eligibility of a current employee at a time or in a manner not required by federal law. A federal court has temporarily blocked enforcement of this provision.
“It is immoral for companies to force current employees to reverify their work authorization, especially while they are organizing a union,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Instead of requiring workers to resubmit authorization documents, Mr. C should respect its workers’ decision in the union election.”
During the union election at Mr. C, management challenged the voting eligibility of three workers employed as room inspectors, causing the NLRB to impound their ballots. If tallied for the union, the three outstanding ballots will contribute to a majority vote for unionization.
On January 10, an NLRB Hearing Officer concluded that the three workers were eligible to vote, rejected the employer’s other objections, and issued a recommendation that the impounded ballots be counted. The recommendation was affirmed in its entirety by NLRB regional leadership on February 7. The employer may request review of this decision by the national NLRB.
UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports.