For immediate release
September 1, 2010
IRVINE – Workers from the HEI-owned Embassy Suites hotel in Irvine announced Tuesday afternoon they are calling for a boycott of their employer.
The boycott is the second worker-called embargo of a HEI-owned hotel in Southern California, and the fourth in the country. Other boycotted HEI properties include the Hilton Long Beach, Sheraton Crystal City and Le Meridien in San Francisco. Under boycott, workers request that potential customers not eat, sleep or meet at the HEI-owned hotels.
HEI strategically buys hotels, operates them under the Marriott, Hilton and Embassy Suites brand names, employs a range of techniques to bring costs down, and sells the properties over a period of 8 to 12 years. It raises the capital to do so through university endowments from some of America’s most prestigious institutions including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and University of Chicago.
But workers say the cost slashing comes at their expense. Workers have reported they endure cuts in staffing levels so employees are forced to do the job of two or three people, a lack of basic work materials like cleaning supplies and linens, and the inability to take breaks because of such heavy workloads and pressure.
Workers filed complaints with the state of California earlier in this month demanding about $120,000 in back pay for missing breaks to which they are entitled under state law.
"Most days we are required to clean 15 suites, which in my area means making about 30 beds," said Maribel Duarte, a 15-year housekeeper. "There is simply not enough time in the day, so we are under tremendous pressure to work very fast. I leave work with headaches daily."
Workers at the Embassy Suites Irvine also cite low wages and the lack of affordable employer-provided health benefits as methods for maximizing HEI profits.
Argelia Rico, an Embassy Suites housekeeper, says she earns about $8.80 an hour.
"I earn so little, that in order to survive, I work a second job in the evening cleaning a preschool," Rico said. "I have very little time to spend with my children because I am always working just to scrape by."
Maintenance worker Adrian Murillo, who has worked at the hotel for 23 years, will soon have to go without health insurance because he can no longer afford it.
"I have been paying $364 a month for health insurance just for my wife and I," Murillo said. "On top of that, we have to pay co-pays to see the doctors. I’m diabetic, and I need insurance, but I cannot afford it any longer."
Already, area leaders have committed to respecting the boycott.
"One of the core values for the city of Irvine is the belief that workers deserve living wage so that they may support their families with dignity," said Larry Agran, Irvine Mayor Pro-Tem. "I support the efforts of the hotel workers at the Irvine Embassy Suites, and I intend to support this boycott."