San Francisco, CA-"On July 1, a manager at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel directed five housekeeping department employees and members of UNITE HERE Local 2 to refrain from speaking Cantonese while they are in the hotel. The workers had been engaged in a private conversation about their work schedules at approximately 7:50 am, prior to beginning their shifts at 8:00 am that day. The manager’s comments were made in earshot of approximately 20 other workers. On July 20, a group of workers courageously spoke out to expose discrimination by management at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and to call for an immediate end to this illegal practice. After their shifts ended, the workers held a press conference at the front entrance of the hotel.
"I was shocked when my manager said that we are not allowed to speak Cantonese at work," said Bi Yi Jiang, a room cleaner at the Mark Hopkins for five years. "Cantonese is the language I feel most comfortable speaking. I am very concerned that if there is an emergency in the hotel and we cannot speak in our native language, the workers and the hotel guests could be in danger."
The management’s action is illegal, and a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Mark Hopkins Hotel and UNITE HERE Local 2. Local 2 has filed a grievance against the hotel and has also filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
"This is an issue of concern for all of us," said Bayardo Cespedes, a Mark Hopkins houseman for 25 years. "About a year ago, management tried to stop us from speaking Spanish on the job. We knew it was wrong and we fought against it."
In related news, UNITE HERE, Local 2 will return to the bargaining table to negotiate with the Multi-Employer Group on August 10.