The federal authority charged with overseeing labor relations between employers and their workers is asking a court to declare that the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission cannot interfere with unionized workers or their collective bargaining rights.
Lawyers representing the National Labor Relations Board filed a Motion for Declaratory Relief on behalf of hotel workers at the Divi Carina Bay Casino Resort on St. Croix. The workers organized and voted to form a union in 2008, but resistance on the part of Divi management and later Casino Control Commissioner Director Violet Anne Golden kept them from obtaining a union contract.
Labor board officials also say the union refrained from further attempts at reaching a contract after Golden threatened them with criminal and civil sanctions. The former commission director cited provisions contained in Chapter 32 of the Virgin Islands Code as the basis for making those threats.
By then, Divi management had already challenged a declaration by the labor board to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Third Circuit. Court documents say NLRB had recognized the union and declared they had the right to negotiate with Divi for a contract.
In November 2011, justices with the Third Circuit upheld that decision. In December 2012, Golden told the hotel workers union they had to register with the commission before they could negotiate with Divi. Several months after they registered, Golden told them they could not seek a union contract from the casino resort and they could be charged with a crime if they did.
Union representatives filed an unfair labor practices complaint, and Golden responded by threatening them with civil and criminal sanctions.
In the motion filed Feb. 14 in District Court, the NLRB says, “the commission’s policy under the Casino Act thus prevents a labor organization from functioning as a union and deprives employees of federally-protected rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C., Section 157.”
The board also says the Casino Control Act, which established the commission and the applicable laws, prevents NLRB from performing its duties to investigate complaints and to remedy complaints through its rulings.
The court is now being asked to declare that the casino commission’s policies and orders issued to unionized employees at Divi violate federal law and are invalid.