October 29, 2011 · 3 Comments
Hollywood, CA -(www.hospitalitybusinessnews.com) This morning, October 28, 2011, over 100 workers at the W Hollywood walked off the job to protest not being able to take breaks. The hotel is owned by HEI Hospitality whose major investors include Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame and University of Chicago, among others.
W Hollywood workers allege that these universities are complicit in wage theft. Banquet servers, bellman, in-room dining attendants and housekeepers claim that because of increased workloads, short-staffing and insufficient time, they often cannot take their breaks. California state law allows workers two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one 30-minute paid rest break in an eight-hour shift.
“These universities cannot hide behind HEI,” said Mildred Velasquez, a housekeeper at the W Hollywood. “Working here is no better than working at a sweatshop. These universities give HEI millions of dollars. They are the real owners of this hotel. They are responsible for our working conditions.”
HEI has repeatedly broken the law. Earlier this month, a California Labor Commission hearing officer found the HEI’s subsidiary Merritt Hospitality, operator of the Embassy Suites in Irvine, guilty of denying rest breaks to hotel workers and has ordered the hotel pay $36,000 to workers. This ruling follows on the heels of an earlier Massachusetts court case mandating HEI pay double damages of $4.5 million to a Senior Vice President who was retaliated against by HEI for complaining about age discrimination.
From early morning to midnight, hundreds of hotel workers and community members are expected to take to the streets surrounding the W Hollywood during this one-day strike. Students from university campuses invested in HEI also joined the striking workers to express their support.
“UChicago is funding a lawbreaker in my name,” said University of Chicago senior Brita Hofwolt. “I’m here today to say that UChicago needs to end this abuse.”
The parallel student campaign demanding accountability and socially responsible investment practices continues to grow nationwide. As hotel workers in Hollywood picketed, students at Yale, Harvard, Princeton and the University of Chicago called upon endowment officials to not reinvest in HEI.
“They need to know that we are upset with their role in exploiting hotel workers,” said Harvard University freshman Gabriel Bayard. “We don’t want our education to be subsidized by a company that has a proven record of breaking the law.”