Feds probing violations of hotel union’s contract

An investigation has begun into whether San Francisco’s hotel union violated its contract when it reallocated employer-contributed funds.

The National Labor Relations Board launched the probe Tuesday — the same day hotel workers filed back into work at the Hyatt Regency in downtown after a six-day strike resulting from a 14-month labor dispute.

The Hyatt filed a complaint in May accusing the union of violating its own contract when it decided to use employer contributions allocated for child care and elder care to fund its legal needs. This amounts to “tens of thousands of dollars,” said Peter Hillan, a publicist for the Hyatt Regency.

Under the contract, which expired last August, union members cannot shift that money without first negotiating with hotels, Hillan said. Hotels pay into these two funds to support child and elder care along with legal help for their workers.

“They are not allowed to disregard the law as it suits them,” Hillan said.  “But if that’s how they are managing union funds contributed by the employer, it does raise a concern on how efficient and how effective they are in representing themselves at the table.”

Union leaders balked at the Hyatt’s complaint, saying it was nothing more than propaganda. Union President Mike Casey said the union’s reallocation of the funds is completely legal under the terms of the contract.

He said the legal fund has been depleted over the years, as more workers are in need of legal assistance during the foreclosure crisis and with pending immigration-status issues.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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