More than a year after union hotel contracts expired, 850 hotel workers at the Hilton Union Square, the nation’s second largest Hilton hotel, walked off the job at 4:00 a.m. on October 13. Workers announced a six-day strike protesting Hilton’s efforts to lock workers into permanent recessionary contracts, even after Hilton extracted $180 million in corporate breaks from taxpayers.
Hilton Worldwide, owned by one of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms – the Blackstone Group [NYSE: BX] – is taking unfair advantage of its workers and the American taxpayers. Blackstone owed about $320 million in debt to the Federal Reserve, but persuaded the agency to accept just $142 million in payment. Taxpayers bear the cost of the remaining $180 million. Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Hotels recently described the effect of the debt deal on his company: “We were in good shape before and we’re in exceptionally good shape now.” (Hotel News Now, 9/28/2010). Meanwhile, Hilton workers face proposals that would increase family health care costs by hundreds of dollars a month, freeze pensions, reduce staffing and increase workloads.
Most recently, Blackstone proposed that housekeepers clean 20 rooms a day, instead of 14, a 40% increase in workload, under their Refresh Program. “We call it the Dirty Room Program,” said Guadalupe Chavez, a 30 –year housekeeper at Hilton Union Square. “They’ve already taken $180 million of our taxes and now they want us to subsidize them by lowering our standards at work and customers’ standards for a clean hotel.”