Friday, March 19, 2004 | 11:26 a.m.
A federal judge has ordered dry cleaner Al Phillips the Cleaner to recognize the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) as the collective bargaining representative of 120 workers at the company's central plant in Las Vegas.
In a March 11 decision, U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson ordered managers at Al Phillips to bargain with the workers and ruled that the company violated an agreement a company manager signed. In the agreement, the manager pledged to recognize the union once union leaders proved the union had a majority of workers interested in joining.
UNITE has been trying to organize roughly 120 Al Phillips employees since July through an authorization card check. An attorney for the company has sense contended that the company would prefer to have the employees decide through a National Labor Relations Board-administered election.
Workers had picketed the company's central plant between July and early September. The union contends that a majority of the workers are in favor of UNITE's leadership.
When the union tried to proceed with the administrative card check process, the company's leaders refused to accept the validity of the agreement, saying it was too vague and the manager was coerced into signing it. The union in turn filed the lawsuit in July.
Dawson ruled that the agreement was valid and clearly stated the company's intention to recognize the union once the union proved a majority of the workers want to be represented by the union.
Al Phillips attorney Joshua Harmon said in a statement that although the judge ruled in favor of the union, the judge did agree with the company on certain points.
"The judge notes that issues relating to the authenticity or validity of signatures should be handled by the National Labor Relations Board. The company is currently reviewing the decision and analyzing its options. The company notes, however, that the entire issue could have been resolved last summer if the union had agreed to let the National Labor Relations Board resolve the issue through a secret ballot election," Harmon said in the statement.
Cristina Vazquez, regional manager of UNITE's western region, said the decision was a victory for laundry workers in Las Vegas.
"In the city of Las Vegas where its a union town, for the employer to try to break workers' unity, its not the place to do it. We're a very important part of the city of Las Vegas. Their work needs to be recognized," Vazquez said.
Vazquez said the union represents about 4,000 laundry workers in the Las Vegas Valley or about 90 percent of the laundry workers here. They work at such facilities as Mission Industries, Caesars Entertainment Central Laundry Facility, Brady Linen Services and G & K Services.
UNITE still has a pending complaint with the NLRB. A hearing regarding a complaint on behalf of the union is set to begin May 10. Those complaints include allegations that the company fired employees who were involved in the pickets.
A hearing before an administrative law judge was set to began Feb. 24 regarding a complant the NLRB filed on behalf of the company, but that complaint was settled.
In the now-dismissed complaint the NLRB filed on behalf of Al Phillips, the company alleges that during the pickets, union representatives threatened people working for the company with physical violence, blocked employees from making deliveries at the MGM Grand hotel casino and threatened to burn the vehicles of workers who crossed the picket line.