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Judge orders Harbor Cruises to rehire fired employees with back pay


An administrative law judge ruled yesterday that the managers of Harbor Cruises Ltd. violated federal labor laws by firing workers and admonishing them not to complain during and after a 1994 unionizing drive by the waiters and waitresses aboard the Bay Lady and Lady Baltimore tour boats.

Judge John H. West ordered the company, which runs dinner cruises out of the Inner Harbor, to rehire and pay back wages with interest to employees fired after the 1994 organizing drive by Local 37 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

In addition, the judge ordered the company to remove from its handbook a passage that reads: "Griping to other employees or outsiders is not considered [a] professional or appropriate manner to resolve problems."

Key to his finding that the company committed unfair labor practices and improperly intimidated workers against the union was a tape of a company meeting, in which one of the managers told workers the company would go out of business if the workers voted for a union, Judge West said in his 50-page decision.

Michael McGuire, lawyer for Harbor Cruises, said yesterday his client had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision, but noted that such decisions can be reviewed and reversed by the National Labor Relations Board.

In addition, he noted that the majority of the workers voted against the union in the March 1994 election. "The company is confident that if another election is held . . . the overwhelming sentiment among its employees will still be against union representation," he added.

Monica Gudaitis, a part-time waitress on the boats who supported the union, said she was thrilled with the decision. Her son and several of her friends had been fired just after the election, she said. Now, "they are just ecstatic," she said.

John Singleton, attorney for the union, said between 10 and 15 employees could be rehired.

The union, which lost the last election 20-17, will ask for another election, he said.

Waiters and waitresses who work aboard the ships started organizing last year because of concerns about scheduling and payment. For example, some complained that they weren't receiving the full gratuity tacked onto the price of a ticket, he said. "This victory is particularly sweet," Mr. Singleton said. "Those people were not treated fairly."

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