For immediate release
December 8, 2010
As union files charges with Labor Board in response to alleged retaliation for union activity, community members gather in support of workers
IRVINE – Irvine community and clergy leaders gathered for a rally at the Embassy Suites Irvine Wednesday to call on management to do the right thing this holiday season, and stop attacking workers’ right to organize a union.
The gathering of support came the same day as UNITE HERE Local 11 filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board for retaliation of protected union activity. One worker alleged that his hours have been cut and others allege that management has said they cannot pass out leaflets to the public or post union notices in the break room — lawful activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
"I’m an outspoken supporter of the union, and HEI management knows this," said Andrew Cohen, an Embassy Suites front-desk agent. "Despite that I’m the most senior front-desk agent, one recent week, my schedule was cut down to 26 hours. I was the only front desk employee to have my hours cut and a day taken off my schedule."
Other allegations involve management scrutinizing the work of union activists, refusing to let workers hang pro-union materials and refusing to allow off-duty workers hand out flyers outside hotel doors.
"We want to show the Embassy Suites Irvine workers we are behind them 100 percent," said Wendy Tarr, director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Orange County. "It’s not easy to stand up to the boss, and it’s even more difficult when management interferes with workers’ lawful union activity. But we know that in the end, justice will prevail. And hopefully, by seeing us with workers, management will realize that and find it in their hearts to stop the abuse."
HEI Hotels strategically buys hotels, operates them under the Marriott, Hilton and Embassy Suites brand names, employs a range of techniques to bring costs down, and sells the properties over a period of 8 to 12 years. It raises the capital to do so through university endowments from some of America’s most prestigious institutions including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and University of Chicago.
But workers say the cost slashing comes at their expense. Among other cost-saving techniques, workers cite low wages and the lack of affordable employer-provided family health benefits as methods for maximizing HEI profits.