Hotel Musicians Win $10,000 in Back Pay

Volume CIII, No. 6June, 2003

Jim Hannen

Two hotel musicians recently won more than $10,000 in back pay and benefits from the Peninsula Hotel, thanks to assistance from 802’s Contract Administration department.

The Peninsula, a signatory to the union’s Hotel Agreement, had temporarily laid off the two piano players last July with assurances that they would return in September after completion of renovations to the hotel’s bar. The musicians were tenured under the agreement, having worked at the hotel for more than three years.

But because the hotel failed to provide the musicians with the required notice of a temporary layoff, the musicians filed a grievance. Last October, the Peninsula paid the two nearly $6,000 in wages and $1,700 in benefits to resolve the grievance. During the grievance, the union learned that the two were laid off for three weeks in 2001 as well, which was never reported to the union.

Then, early last September the Peninsula reinstated music but hired other musicians, claiming the two tenured musicians could not perform under a new format featuring vocals and piano. However, the Hotel Agreement requires that, in the event of a change of format, the tenured musicians must be given an opportunity to show they can perform adequately.

So Local 802 filed another grievance. The union noted that the hotel had previously required the musicians to add vocals only three months before – and they had, in fact, done so to the satisfaction of the employer. Therefore the job was rightfully theirs.

Both sides couldn’t agree, and an arbitration hearing was set for March 31, with the union seeking reinstatement and back pay.

Peninsula management maintained all along that the musicians were aware of the pending change in format and that there was no promise of a return date. The hotel also claimed that six weeks’ pay in lieu of notice, which was paid last October, was the limit of their liability.

The arbitration hearing had just begun when a settlement was reached, providing the two musicians with an additional $2,500 in wages and benefits.

Local 802 was assisted by attorney Harvey Mars.