No union for cruise ship food workers Local 31 withdraws before second vote on whether to join

Inner Harbor

August 14, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The International Union of Operating Engineers gave up yesterday a four-year effort to organize food-service workers on the Lady Baltimore and Bay Lady dinner cruise ships in the Inner Harbor.

The union's Local 31 withdrew its bid for recognition by canceling an election scheduled for yesterday that would have given more than 30 Harbor Cruises Ltd. workers the chance to vote for or against union membership.

An initial bid by the union to organize the waiters, waitresses, bartenders and galley staff failed in March 1994 by a vote of 20-16.

The union's organizing drive began after Harbor Cruises employees complained of scheduling concerns and alleged that the company was pocketing a portion of their gratuities from customers.

During the four acrimonious years since the vote, Harbor Cruises was found by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington to have engaged in unfair labor practices such as pressuring workers to reject the union and later firing union activists.

The NLRB ordered Harbor Cruises to rehire -- and pay back wages with interest to -- the employees who were fired or placed on reduced work schedules after the 1994 union-organizing drive. It also ordered a new election.

Local 31 officials referred calls to attorney John S. Singleton, who was not available for comment yesterday.

"I'm pleased that the issue is resolved," said Michael Stappler, president of Harbor Cruises. "Our company is a good company with good employees, and there isn't a lot of support for the union."

"Normally, if the union feels it's not going to win, it will withdraw," said J. Michael McGuire of Shawe & Rosenthal in Baltimore, who represented Harbor Cruises.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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