For immediate release
July 28, 2011
In protests nationwide, hotel workers and students “blow the whistle” on HEI
July 28, 2011, in several cities nationwide, HEI workers and students from universities which invest endowment monies in HEI are protesting the mistreatment of workers by HEI Hotels, the 7th largest hotel management company in the U.S. Protests are focusing on the company’s pattern of punishing actions against "whistle-blowers"–workers who speak up about their working conditions.
Three recent incidents highlight what happens to HEI workers when they speak up about their working conditions. On April 20, 2011, the HEI-owned Hilton Long Beach fired five housekeepers after three of them raised concerns with management about unfair working conditions. The housekeepers had also been participating in an ongoing state investigation into the legality of their employment arrangements. They were paid under the table without a legal paycheck. On March 30, 2011, a jury ruled unanimously that a former Senior Vice President was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the government for age discrimination. He was awarded in $4.5 million in damages. On May 11, 2011, a doorman from the HEI Sheraton in Northern Virginia went to HEI’s annual investors’ meeting to present a worker’s view of HEI’s business approach. When he returned, he was interrogated and disciplined at work for his involvement in the meeting.
"It’s not fair that we work hard, and then get thrown away like garbage," said Maria Medina, a former housekeeper at the Hilton Long Beach, who was fired just two days after she and two other women spoke out about unfair working conditions to the hotel’s human resources director.
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.
Actions are currently planned at the HEI-operated Le Meridien in San Francisco, the Embassy Suites Irvine, and the Sheraton Crystal City (VA), where workers have called for justice at their jobs.
"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."
# # #
UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.