Government Finds Evidence of 43 Labor Law Violations at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 4, 2023

Contact: Ted Waechter [email protected]

Investigation Finds Evidence of Forty-Three Labor Law Violations at Luxury Resort in Sonoma Wine Country

Three-Month Government Investigation Finds Evidence Sufficient to Prosecute Illegal “Union-Busting” at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

Sonoma, Calif. — An investigation by Region 20 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found evidence sufficient to prosecute dozens of labor law violations at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, a luxury resort in Sonoma Wine Country where workers are organizing to join the UNITE HERE Local 2 union. The investigation found merit to Local 2’s allegations that hotel management had threatened workers for engaging in union activity, illegally interrogated employees about their union activities, illegally promised benefits to workers if they rejected the union, and more.

An attorney with Region 20 of the NLRB, the federal agency that investigates and prosecutes labor law violations, interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence from the hotel during the three-month investigation,  finding sufficient evidence to support a Complaint regarding 43 labor law violations committed by hotel managers and professional union avoidance consultants hired by the hotel. (At least three of them checked in to stay in hotel rooms and have been staying at the property on and off for around five months.) Region 20’s findings include:

  • Illegal threats of reprisals against employees for engaging in union activities.
  • Illegal discrimination against a union supporter by assigning him more job duties and denying him pay offered to other workers to attend an anti-union meeting.
  • Illegal interrogation of employees about their union activities.
  • Illegally cornering employees while they were performing job duties to persuade them not to join the union.
  • Illegal surveillance or creating the impression of surveillance.
  • Illegally encouraging employees to report coworkers’ lawful union activity to hotel management.
  • Illegally promising employment benefits if workers rejected the union.
  • Illegally impliedly promising a promotion to an employee if he refrained from union activities.
  • Implementing a hotel-wide raise, increasing banquet and valet service charges, offering a new wellness allowance and scholarship fund, and purchasing new equipment to discourage support for the Union.

“Instead of respecting our decision to unionize, the hotel has tried to intimidate, threaten, and bribe us,” said Carlos Castillo, a housekeeping houseman at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for 13 years. “But we haven’t let their illegal actions stop us. We have stayed strong, and we will keep staying strong because we deserve good jobs, safe working conditions, and respect.”

To resolve and remedy Region 20’s findings, the Fairmont Sonoma has agreed to multiple concessions – including instructing employees about their rights at work and granting the Union equal time should the hotel conduct further meetings about unionization – and to refrain from further violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The Union will be watching the Employer closely to ensure compliance with the settlement.

“The hotel has crossed a line with the way it has illegally tried to stop us from joining the union,” said Aaron Brumley, a cook at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for 12 years. “The first time a union-buster came up to me, I said I was too busy working to talk. Then he came back with a second union-buster, and I said the same thing. A few days later, I was working in a room off the kitchen when I looked up and saw four union-busters in the doorway, and one of them said, ‘We want to talk to you. We think you have some misunderstandings about unions.’ They were physically blocking me in, like they were trying to intimidate me. That’s not right, and I’m glad the hotel is being held accountable.”

Around 250 workers at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn host wealthy vacationers at the luxury resort, but workers say their jobs aren’t enough to make ends meet. Wages, health care, and working conditions at the hotel are substantially inferior to those of union workers at other Fairmont hotels in San Francisco. For example, housekeepers at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn make $21, compared to $28.10 at the Fairmont San Francisco.

In February, over 200 hotel workers and supporters held a vigil in the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn to protest its anti-union campaign. Photos and video of the event are available for secure download here.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is owned by Brookfield Asset Management and operated by the French hospitality company Accor.


UNITE HERE Local 2 is the hospitality workers’ union in the San Francisco Bay Area, representing over 15,000 workers at hotels, restaurants, tech cafeterias, sports stadiums, SFO, OAK, and more.