Two years ago, the new Marriott Downtown Hartford opened, with great fanfare, next to the new Connecticut Convention Center. (The Center, incidentally, is a terrific facility if you have not visited and the hotel is pretty snazzy too.)  Over the next year, the fanfare was marked by labor pickets involving both facilities.  Then Marriott requested that the NLRB hold an election to determine if the hotel’s employees wanted to be represented by the union that was picketing.  Things have been quiet lately. So what happened?

Well, a brief primer. Shortly after the hotel and center opened, a UNITE HERE Local 217 representative asked  the hotel to "begin discussions about a Labor Peace agreement." A local Hartford ordinance requires, under various circumstances, that employers with development projects to sign an agreement with a union upon request. 

After months of back and forth on this issue, in April 2006, the union sent a letter to Marriott indicating that it would be "commencing an organizing drive" among the hotel’s employees and was "prepared to begin discussions to determine whether we might reach a ‘labor peace agreement’ setting ground rules for organizing." 

The Daily Labor Reports picks up the story from here:

Marriott then petitioned with NLRB seeking a representation election to determine whether the hotel’s employees wanted UNITE HERE to represent them. The union conducted a protest rally at the hotel and the convention center shortly thereafter.  One week later, NLRB Regional Director Peter B. Hoffman dismissed Marriott’s election petition, finding that the union had not made a present demand for recognition.

Marriott asked the National Labor Relations Board to review the regional director’s decision, arguing that the union "demanded" a card-check agreement, engaged in "representational picketing," and "invoked" a city ordinance that Marriott said applies only where a union has made a demand for recognition.  The Board granted review in August 2006 with great fanfare.

What began with a loud roar, has now ended softly — at least for now.  Last week, the NLRB quietly affirmed the Regional Director’s decision in a short and unpublished decision, according to the Daily Labor Reports.  The decision did not explain its rationale and indeed, a review of the NLRB’s website barely mentions the case. 

Marriott had asked for the Board to overrule New Otani Hotel & Garden, 331 N.L.R.B. 1078, 167 LRRM 1039 (2000).  In that case, the Board denied review of a regional director’s dismissal of an employer’s election petition and "held that a union’s informational picketing and its repeated requests for a neutrality and card-check agreement did not constitute a present demand for recognition."

Thus, for all of the speculation out there that the present makeup of the Board favors employers, this decision deflates such speculation. Given the opportunity to overrule precedent, the Board sidestepped the issue, at least for now. 

As for the Marriott Downtown Hartford, it remains to be seen what will happen there.  The picketing has quieted down from last year and both sides turned down the rhetoric as well.  Where they go from here will be up to them.

(Hat tip: Workplace Prof Blog)