SAN PABLO -- A federal labor judge has found that a San Pablo Indian casino engaged in a variety of unfair labor practices during a long and bitter battle with employees and their union over wages, benefits and working conditions.

Unite Here Local 2850, which represents more than 150 housekeeping, gaming and food service workers at the Lytton Rancheria-owned Casino San Pablo, had lodged a litany of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board's Oakland office, including that casino management has bargained in bad faith, banned union organizers, bullied some workers and unlawfully denied benefits to some.

Attorneys and other representatives of the casino repeatedly denied the union's charges, saying the casino has bargained in good faith and treated workers fairly, and explaining that some organizers were "excluded" from the casino for bad behavior.

Unite Here says its members earn an average of $9.50 an hour at Casino San Pablo, substantially less, the union says, than workers at other Northern California Indian casinos, such as Cache Creek and Thunder Valley. Casino San Pablo has said its wages and benefits are comparable with the rest of the industry in California.

The two sides have been embroiled in a dispute for two years, and in June the casino declared an impasse, saying further negotiations would be futile. The union disagreed and sent the casino's attorney a letter with new wage proposals, but the casino did not respond.

In late August, the labor board filed a complaint against the casino, adding an amendment and additional complaint a month later.

In an opinion filed earlier this month, Administrative Law Judge Jay Pollack found that the casino violated the National Labor Relations Act:

  • by refusing to bargain with the union;

  • by unilaterally establishing rules prohibiting union access to the casino;

  • by unilaterally announcing and implementing new benefits for part-time employees;

  • by refusing to provide contractual health benefits for four employees;

  • by refusing to provide relevant information necessary for bargaining and grievance handling;

  • by coercively interrogating an employee;

  • by telling an employee not to discuss his investigation with other employees;

    Parties may file exceptions to the administrative law judge's decision within 28 days. Pollack's decision is dated March 5.

    Along with his decision, Pollack issued a cease-and-desist order to the casino from continuing its offending conduct and ordering it to bargain with the union; rescind unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment; make records available; and indemnify the four workers for health benefits denied in 2012, including reimbursement for expenses they incurred as a result.

    Pollack also ordered the casino to post a notice to employees pledging, in specific detail, to desist from the conducts at the heart of his findings.

    Contacted by phone Friday, Joseph Wilson of Curiale Wilson LLP of San Francisco, an attorney representing the casino in the labor board action, said he and his co-counsel, Richard Curiale, would have "no comment at this time."

    In an email Friday, Larry Stidham, an attorney for the Lytton Rancheria, said: "The Tribal Council is reviewing the decision today. No decision has yet been reached concerning an appeal."

    Unite Here Local 2850, in a statement Thursday, called on the casino to "stop violating our rights and come back to the bargaining table."

    "Instead of breaking laws and then paying lawyers to fight their case, they should lift their workers and the San Pablo community out of poverty," the union said.

    Revenue from the casino makes up nearly two-thirds of San Pablo's $24 million general fund. The city expects to collect $15.25 million from the casino in fiscal 2012-13: $1.75 million in lieu of taxes plus $13.5 million, or a 7.5 percent cut of gross gambling revenue. Extrapolating from the city's expected cut, the casino would gross about $180 million this fiscal year.

    Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.