For immediate release
May 7, 2010
Letters to hotels warn: "We will do business with hotel companies that treat their employees with fairness and respect."
Indianapolis, IN–On behalf of the NFL Players Association, Indianapolis Colts star Jeff Saturday and DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFLPA, have sent letters to the CEOs of three major hotel companies–Hyatt, Starwood, and Host–expressing concern over the treatment of workers in non-union hotels in downtown Indianapolis.
The letters affirm the NFLPA’s support for hotel workers organizing in Indianapolis, who are among the lowest paid hotel workers in America, and state, "we believe that working people deserve living wages, dignity, respect and freedom to organize without employer intimidation." Additionally, the letters warn that "the NFL Combine in Indianapolis fills many hotel rooms, and we will do business with hotel companies that treat employees with fairness and respect."
The letters come after years of controversy surrounding labor disputes at the Westin, Hyatt Regency and the Sheraton Keystone Indianapolis, where workers have requested a fair process to choose whether or not to form a union in an environment free of intimidation. Management at all three hotels have refused to honor the workers’ request. Moreover, the hotels have subcontracted out hundreds of jobs. Most controversially, the Westin banned an award-winning doorman and union supporter named William Selm from the hotel, after he spoke out against the hotel’s decision to outsource jobs. Mr. Saturday’s letter to Starwood CEO Frits van Paashen from the NFLPA makes specific mention of Mr. Selm’s case.
"I am grateful to Mr. Saturday and the NFL Players Association for standing up for us," says Mr. Selm. "The people of Indianapolis have made a huge taxpayer investment in the development of our sports and hospitality industries downtown, but we have yet to see that money trickle down to us in the form of good jobs. I’d like to see more of that money stay right here in Indianapolis, rather than get boxed off to Hyatt’s corporate headquarters in Chicago or Starwood’s headquarters in White Plains. Our economy and the people of Indianapolis deserve at least that."
Currently, there are no union hotels in Indianapolis, and workers here are among the lowest paid hotel workers of any major city in the United States. Housekeepers in Indianapolis earn around $7.50 an hour, as compared to housekeepers in Chicago working for the same national companies, who earn $14.60 an hour.
"Hotel workers in Indianapolis have been struggling for some time to make a better life for ourselves and our families," says Eric Martin, who has worked at the Hyatt Regency for 12 years as a banquet steward. "I make just over $10 an hour, even though I’ve worked here more than a decade and I just want what every parent wants–a decent life for my daughter. It means a lot to know that the players–who work hard on the field to please their fans, just like we work hard to please our guests at the hotels–are behind us."