For immediate release
November 28, 2011
UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, commends Yale University for its decision not to reinvest in private-equity hotelier, HEI Hospitality. Earlier this year, Brown University announced that it will not reinvest in HEI until the University is confident that HEI is respecting the rights of its workers, and the University of Pennsylvania stated publicly that it had no current plans to make future investments in HEI-sponsored funds.
HEI’s Troubles Intensify
Over the past three years, HEI has a growing record of exploitative labor practices at their hotels.
Most recently, a California State Labor Commission hearing officer found the HEI-managed Embassy Suites in Irvine guilty of denying rest breaks required under state law to eight workers and ordered the hotel pay them $41,000. HEI has now settled or been held liable on 32 wage and hour administrative complaints for a total of $99,999 at the Embassy Suites Irvine.
In March 2011, eight jurors ruled unanimously that former HEI Senior Vice President Larry Trainor was retaliated against by HEI for filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In April 2011, the judge overseeing the case doubled initial damages awarded – to $4.5 million – noting the jury’s finding of knowing retaliation, which entitles the employee to multiple damages.
Since 2008, multiple National Labor Relations Board complaints were issued against HEI. In settlement agreements with the NLRB where HEI did not admit wrongdoing, HEI has promised not to threaten to fire workers, take away benefits, or make work more difficult for participating in union activity. HEI even promised not to confiscate food that workers received from the union.
HEI’s Exploitative Labor Practices Spur Campus Actions
Student organizations have protested their university investment in HEI nationwide. Earlier this month, hundreds of Harvard students and affiliates secured tents to begin an occupation of Harvard Yard in solidarity with the global Occupy movement. Among their key demands, protestors have urged Harvard University to pledge not to reinvest in HEI due to the growing number of labor violations and complaints filed against the company and its creation of "sweatshop" hotel conditions.
"I’m glad that Yale has made this decision," said Sam Wohns, a sophomore at Harvard University. "It is unacceptable for socially conscious universities to invest in a company that operates sweatshop hotels and exploits its workers. I hope that Harvard Management Company and other university endowments make the same public commitment to not reinvest in HEI."
"Many thanks to Yale University for its decision not to invest more in HEI," said Ana Maria Trevino, a housekeeper at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Irvine. "Universities should improve the lives of people and not invest in exploitative corporations that break the laws and treat their workers like animals."
Student organizations on more than 50 university campuses nationwide have signed onto a petition urging their university leadership not to invest in HEI Hospitality.
The University-HEI Connection
HEI receives the majority of its funding from some of the nation’s most esteemed universities, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and the University of Michigan. Since 2004, Yale’s endowment has been one of HEI Hospitality’s key investors in all three of its hospitality funds, having invested a total of at least $121.5 million.
Find Yale’s statement at the following web address: http://acir.yale.edu/announcements.html.