For immediate release
March 23, 2020
Statement from UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor:
Hundreds of thousands of hotel workers have been laid off during the COVID-19 crisis and have no idea how they will pay rent, provide food for themselves and their families, or get healthcare if they or a loved one becomes ill. Meanwhile, the largest publicly traded hotel operators are prepared to pay billions of dollars to investors through dividends and stock buybacks. Earlier this month, Hilton authorized an additional $2 billion for stock buybacks and this week Marriott announced its intention to make a $156 million dividend payment on March 31.
Hotel firms should preserve available cash to pay workers during the crisis, and especially to make sure that every hotel worker has health insurance. However, since the beginning of 2020, while COVID-19 has spread exponentially around the globe, publicly traded hotel operators have returned hundreds of millions of dollars and made public commitments to return billions more in discretionary money to investors through dividends and buybacks.
It is appalling that the industry is scheduled to make more than $200 million in dividend payments in the next few weeks as if people were traveling as usual. Here’s what the big operating companies are doing as the industry shuts down and workers go without pay:
- Hilton authorized an additional $2 billion for stock buybacks on March 3, 2020 – the day after the Director-General of the World Health Organization warned that “we are in “uncharted territory with COVID-19” as they scrambled to contain the outbreak. Two days later, Hilton borrowed $1.5 billion, drawing down the rest of its revolving credit facility. Hilton is also preparing to pay approximately $41,617,157 in first quarter 2020 dividend payments on March 31, 2020.
- Marriott announced on March 18, 2020 that its first quarter dividend of approximately $155,622,982, payable on March 31, 2020, would proceed as scheduled. Although Marriott has said it will suspend share repurchases, as of February 25, 2020, Marriott had bought back roughly $150 million of stock from investors so far in 2020, and CEO Arne Sorenson told investors that any cash not used for reinvestment “belongs to shareholders.”
- Wyndham released a COVID-19 response guide for investors on March 13, 2020, in which it told investors about their $30 million discretionary dividend and $55 million in expected share buybacks in first quarter 2020.
- Hyatt announced approximately $20,260,910 in dividends for first quarter 2020 on February 19, 2020, a 5.3% increase from the previous quarter, which were supposed to have been paid March 9. The company also repurchased shares worth nearly $39 million from January 1 to February 14, 2020, and had $959 million under its current repurchase authorization.
- Choice Hotels announced a quarterly dividend of approximately $12,534,446 for first quarter 2020, payable April 16, 2020, on February 28, 2020.
UNITE HERE is a labor union that represents over 300,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries in the U.S. and Canada.