For immediate release
June 30, 2005
Rose-Marie A.K. Parris
(203) 865-7315 ext. 289
In August 2004, the former Norwalk Clarion Hotel was sold to a Seattle based company, The Hotel Group (THG), for $10 million. THG is a small Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that “manages hotels for a select group of client partners while acquiring and re-developing properties”. Currently, they claim to own and/or manage 24 small hotels around the country.
In December 2004, THG closed the hotel for renovations and laid off all the workers including the bargaining unit of 37 housekeepers, engineers, laundry workers, and guest attendants. The employees, approximately half of which live in Norwalk, have worked at this location for long periods, some up to thirty years. The hotel has changed ownership 3 previous times, and each time the new owners agreed to rehire the workers and work with the union that has represented them for decades.
Subsequent to the closing, Union representatives attempted to meet with the President of THG, Edmond Lee, to discuss the workers retention. After several unsuccessful attempts to accomplish this, Mr. Lee stated that all the workers would have to apply for their positions like everyone else.
In response to this, approximately 25 of the original 37 employees attended the second day of a two-day, publicly advertised, job fair to offer their unconditional service. During the application process, the workers were met with hostility and disrespect. They were told by Human Resources representatives that although it was only the second day of the job fair, most of the positions had already been filled. To date, only 5 of the 37 employees laid off in December have been retained.
As a result of these events and experiences, many of the employees of the former Clarion feel that they were not treated with the openness and dignity they deserved. They also fear that due to their Union affiliations, it is unlikely that THG will retain the majority of the former employees regardless of their experience with or dedication to the property.
For example, Betty Cutler has worked at this hotel since 1972, after moving here from South Carolina. During that time, she has never been disciplined, has been named employee of the month three times, and has even received a certificate of outstanding service from the U.S. White House in 1999, when President Bill Clinton stayed at the hotel. She has been an exemplary employee for 33 years. She also happened to be the hotel’s chief shop steward for the union. She has not been rehired.
The Norwalk Common Council raised a non-binding resolution that calls upon THG to retain all those that wish to return to their jobs on June 14, 2005. Despite THG’s attempts to block the resolution, the Council adopted the resolution with a 10-4 vote. However, this has not moved THG.
Therefore, the workers of the former Clarion Hotel and their Union, UNITE HERE, Local 217, are calling for a boycott of the property. Similar to UNITE HERE boycotts in San Francisco and Los Angeles, boycott organizers will be asking all potential clients not to patronize the Norwalk Doubletree in order to avoid picket lines that will be frequently held at the hotel. They will also be recommending the use of hotels in the surrounding area until the dispute is resolved.
John Olson, President of the CT State AFL-CIO, has stated that the State Federation fully supports Local 217’s boycott, and will be contacting over 500 labor leaders, representing over 215,000 members across the State, to urge all union members and their families to honor the boycott.
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, has stated that he is concerned about the Hotel owners’ decision not to respect the workers’ valuable work and years of service and will be looking into unfair labor practice charges to determine if workers were singled out, because of their union affiliations. Blumenthal remained clear that his office would support the workers until all have been rehired.