For immediate release
August 12, 2004
Julius de Vera
Responding to actions by the Monterey Bay Travelodge, barring its employees from leafleting at a protest rally yesterday, August 11, UNITE HERE Local 483 has filed charges against the hotel with the National Labor Relations Board. Travelodge employees Juana Enriquez and Sandra MelÃ©ndez, after working their 8-hour shifts for the hotel, stood outside the hotel lobby to hand out informational leaflets. Travelodge general manager, Debra Stewart, called on Monterey police to issue citations and arrest the hotel’s employees for trespassing. Under such threats from the police, Ms. Enriquez and Ms. MelÃ©ndez left the property, leaving union officials fuming. Local 483 President, Julius de Vera commented, “This is outrageous. It is a federal right of employees to leaflet customers at their worksite on their own time.”
The controversy erupted during a large afternoon rally on the public sidewalk in front of the Fremont Street hotel in Monterey. The rally drew over 100 hotel workers and their community supporters, protesting the latest contract offer from the Travelodge’s Alaskan owner, Kilsoo Seo. The group supporting the twelve Latino housekeepers at the Travelodge-all of whom live in Seaside–included Seaside City Councilmembers Steve Bloomer, Tom Mancini, and Ralph Rubio, as well as clergy, representatives, and workers from dozens of local community organizations and hotels. The rally ended in further conflict, as Monterey police cited Local 483 for illegal assembly, obstructing the sidewalk, and amplified noise.
The chants, signs, and speeches by rally participants protested Mr. Seo’s “final” contract offer to the Travelodge workers calling for the hotel’s elimination of health insurance benefits, pension contributions, and paid bereavement leave; reductions in holidays and paid jury duty days; the unpaid extension of the workday by one-half hour; and a wage freeze. Housekeeper Ms. Enriquez, whom the hotel pays $8.84 per hour, said the owner had proposed “not one penny” for employee insurance or pension.
Leonard O’Neill, UNITE HERE Local 483 Secretary-Treasurer, added about the Travelodge, “Over 20 years ago, housekeepers at this hotel organized a union because they had no health coverage, no pension, no rights. We are not going to go back 20 years.”