Chanting "HEI, you’re no good; treat your workers like you should," dozens of university students from across the country walked the picket line in solidarity with hotel workers outside the Sheraton Crystal City in Virginia on Saturday night, January 29, expressing outrage over labor rights violations allegedly committed by the hotel and its corporate investor, HEI.
"We’re out here tonight to fight for justice for these workers and for their right to decide if they want to join a union," Brown University senior Lenora Knowles told Union City. "Students from all across America are urging our universities to stop investing in HEI because of the numbers of reported workers’ rights violations committed by HEI and its hotels." The workers say they are facing cuts in staffing, increased workloads, and low wages.
“This last year has been very difficult," said Herman Romero, a cook who says he was fired for speaking out about wanting to join a union, but then reinstated after protest over the hotel’s actions. "I’m very grateful though to see so many people stand with us; they give us strength."
UNITE HERE organizers told Union City that the workers’ campaign "got an important boost recently" when members of the Brown Student Labor Alliance–which is affiliated with United Students Against Sweatshops–worked with their university’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policy to "make an official recommendation that Brown should not invest any more money in HEI until it resolves allegations of labor abuses." They say that students plan to encourage other universities to also reconsider their investment in HEI. Unfair Labor Practice charges are currently pending with the National Labor Relations Board’s Office of the General Counsel.
To learn more, visit www.heiworkersrising.org.
-excerpted report/photo by Adam Wright, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO