For immediate release
April 8, 2011
Recent announcements at Brown and UPenn build momentum for change at universities nationwide
On April 8, 2011 workers at four HEI-operated hotels and students at eight major universities across the U.S. are holding actions, protesting HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company backed by university endowment capital that has sparked controversy on campuses nationwide for its labor record. The actions build on the momentum of student pressure, which resulted in Brown University’s decision to halt investment in HEI, citing allegations of workers’ rights violations. On March 25, 2011, after years of refusing to make a public statement on the matter, University of Pennsylvania officials revealed that the University has no current plans to invest in HEI in the future.
HEI Hotels is an investment company that owns and operates more than 30 hotels across the country. It buys hotels and employs a range of techniques to drastically cut costs — a process that workers say comes at their expense. HEI has raised over a billion dollars in capital from university endowments such as those of University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and more.
"Because I earn less than $10 an hour, I have to work two jobs to take care of my family," said Argelia Rico, a housekeeper at the Irvine Embassy Suites, who recently visited the University of Chicago and Notre Dame to talk to students about conditions at HEI hotels. "To hear that the students thousands of miles away are organizing themselves to help us win justice inspires me to keep fighting."
In a show of student-worker solidarity, HEI hotel workers will be carrying out actions, such as picketing in front of their hotels, while students hold simultaneous demonstrations. The student demonstrations will include a multi-campus call-in to management at an HEI hotel where workers have recently been threatened with discipline for not completing onerous room-quota assignments, delegations to university officials, and public gatherings to show solidarity with HEI workers. Worker actions are currently planned at the HEI-operated Le Meridien in San Francisco, the Hilton Long Beach, the Embassy Suites Irvine, and the Sheraton Crystal City (VA), where workers have called for justice at their jobs. Student demonstrations will take place at Brown, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. Friday’s actions follow more than three years of student organizing at nearly a dozen university campuses.
"As a freshmen at Harvard University I will be here on campus for another 3 years and I will carry the Harvard name with me for the rest of my life," says Sandra Korn. "I am determined to see my institution do the right thing. My campus community stands in solidarity with HEI workers and we will keep fighting until Harvard follows the lead of Brown University and halts further investment in HEI."