Kahler, hotel workers continue talks

After many months of talks, the Kahler Hospitality Group says it's still open to suggestions from the union about a new labor contract.

Michael Henry, Kahler's managing director of human resources, commented about the status of the labor contract talks on Wednesday. The 270 members of Unite Here Local 21 have been working at the hospitality group's Rochester hotels for six months without a contract.

"We have provided a proposal (on March 24) to the union that identifies what would make us more efficient and effective in operating our business model," Henry said, citing concerns about staying competitive in the rapidly growing Rochester hotel market.

The Kahler proposal has not changed during the contract negotiations with Unite Here, he said.

"We've had some discussions about the proposal and how it impacts the business and the changes the union would like to see happen with those areas," said Henry. "We've entertained all suggestions. We've looked at them. We've truly explored the things they've bought back to the table to see how that would impact the business. And we've given the appropriate responses to those that do not positively impact the business."


Henry said his team did meet once with the union in recent weeks, after the approval of a new five-year union contract at Textile Care Services in early October. Textile Care, which negotiated as a separate entity, also is owned by the Kahler Hospitality Group. Kahler is led by health-care executive and real estate investor Javon Bea.

While the union is pleased with the resolution of the Textile Care contract, Local 21 President Brian Brandt said members are frustrated the hotel workers negotiations remain stalled.

"The very same people own and operate the hotels, where they want to reduce wages and take away other benefits," Brandt said. "Why do the right thing in one place and fight it in another?" he said.

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a hearing on Dec. 15 about 17 charges the union filed against the Kahler Hospitality Group and its managing agent, Richfield Hospitality. The hearing originally was scheduled to happen in Minneapolis, but it was moved to Rochester after Richfield/Kahler filed a motion saying that holding it in the Twin Cities location would be "substantially prejudiced" against them.

No more negotiation meetings are scheduled at this point. Henry said negotiations could resume at any time, even prior to the Dec. 15 hearing.

"Anything is possible. We're open to communicate with the union, whenever possible. At our last communication with them, we indicated for them to please let us know when they have something we can meet about. We left it open," he said.

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