Fired Westin Workers in Providence, RI Win Their Jobs Back After NLRB Action
On November 7, 2009, the Westin Providence fired three housemen, Alfred Palumbo, Mike Crone, and Jose Minaya, in retaliation for their legally protected union protest. The Westin refused appeals from the Union and community leaders to reinstate them. The workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 217, filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which investigated the case for four months.
On Wednesday, February 24, the NLRB Regional Director in Boston gave notice that the Federal Government has authorized a civil prosecution of the Westin Providence for the firings.
In order to avoid further prosecution, the Westin Providence suddenly offered all three workers reinstatement at the hotel to their previous jobs, pay and benefits. Once the NLRB authorizes a complaint, the Westin will be required to make all three workers whole for lost back pay and benefits, and post an official Federal notice throughout the Hotel in order to avoid a trial before a federal labor judge.
Mike Crone was a houseman at the Westin for 12 years before he was terminated by the hotel on November 5th:
I am so happy because we won much more than our jobs; we won back our rights of free speech. We had done nothing wrong. We went on our breaks to join in a Union informational picket line, and the Westin managers fired us for participating in a legal, peaceful protest. I can’t believe what they put us through, firing us right before the holidays. It was a hard Thanksgiving and Christmas for me and my family, but it was worth it to tell the truth about how we are treated at the Westin.
The union has been in negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Westin management since October of last year. The Union has filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the NLRB alleging several illegal acts including the firings. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training - Central Adjudication unit previously ruled in the employees’ favor when they granted them unemployment benefits and stated in their determination of eligibility, “You were discharged when you participated in a informational picket line . . . There is no evidence of deliberate willful misconduct in connection with your work.” The firings and other charges added controversy and distrust to the negotiating process as the union argued vociferously at the table for the immediate return of the employees and their full back pay. The terminations have been the subject of several protests in front of the hotel since November.
RI Jobs with Justice has organized community, clergy, student and labor allies support for several delegations demanding that the Westin rehire the workers.
Chris Cook, an Executive Board member of Local 217 and an employee of the Purchasing and Receiving Department of the Westin for 12 years attended the negotiations with Westin’s management team from The Procaccianti Group. “I don’t know how we can trust the Procacciantis after seeing what they did to our brothers. It’s like trying to negotiate while the company has an axe hanging over your head. The Procacciantis want to replace us with subcontractors and then demand rules limiting how we talk to hotel guests about our concerns. They outsource our jobs and then fire people for speaking up about it.”
On March 4th, workers and community members gathered to welcome the 3 fired workers back to the Westin. Carmen Castillo, a Room Attendant in the Westin hotel for 14 years, said that Westin employees were thrilled to have their coworkers returning. “The workers in the Westin are a close knit community and we care a lot about each other because we have worked together for a long time. We are all excited to be there to welcome the housemen back.”
Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee and other labor and community leaders escorted the three reinstated housemen into the hotel Monday to reclaim their jobs. They were joined by dozens of hotel employees who gathered inside. Providence City Council members John Lombardi and Miguel Luna spoke to the employees who gathered in front of the Westin. “I am proud to stand with the employees of the Westin,” said Councilman Luna to the cheers of the employees. “And I am proud of you for sticking together and winning. You are the ones who make our city great.”
Camilo Viveiros, Executive Director of Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, is pleased that these "brave Westin Workers are finally able to join their coworkers after courageously standing up against intimidation" he went on to say "workers, community, clergy and students stood up against this attack of worker and human rights and we will continue to stand together whenever workers have to fight to defend their hard earned rights"