I got word this morning that the Sheraton Anchorage, which has been under boycott by its workers since last November, today fired four of its workers for engaging in protected union activity.
On February 2, the four workers had been leafleting hotel guests and coworkers about the boycott, activities which are protected per at least two prior National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions:
- Employees have the right to be in nonwork areas of their workplace to communicate with the employer’s customers about a labor dispute, using leaflets or picketing. Scott Hudgens, 230 NLRB 414 (1977).
- Nonwork areas include the doors leading into the employer’s business. Santa Fe Hotel & Casino, 331 NLRB 723 (2000).
Sheraton management continuously interrupted the (off duty) workers as they leafleted prospective guests asking them to honor the worker’s call for a boycott of the hotel. Management took pictures, threatened to have security remove them, and eventually called the police — even though the worker’s activity was legal and protected. The following morning, the hotel’s general manager and human resources director suspended the four and escorted off them the property. Now, two weeks later, the workers have been fired.
Sheraton workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 878, voted in November to place the hotel under boycott after management, without negotiation, raised their monthly premium for family health insurance to $800 per month, an amount many workers cannot afford. Management also imposed a bigger workload, increasing the number of rooms housekeeping staff were expected to clean from 15 to 17 rooms per day. The changes at the Sheraton, which is owned by the Dallas, Texas based company Remington Hotels, are much like that imposed previously on workers at the Hilton Anchorage, which is owned by a Kentucky-based company, Columbia Sussex and was placed under boycott by its workers last May. Both boycotts ask people not to eat, sleep or meet at the hotels until each boycott is ended . [Ref #1-2] Just one day after the four Sheraton workers were suspended, on February 4, a “town hall” meeting hosted by conservative talk radio host Dan Fagan was short at least one of its schedules participants: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz pulled out because to participate would require him to defy the boycott. [Ref #3]
It’s pretty clear to me that management at both the Hilton and the Sheraton — or at least the owners, Remington Hotels and Columbia Sussex — don’t give a damn about the health or welfare of their employees. Wow, here we go, corporations again. Wasn’t I saying something just the other day about corporate psychopathology? [Ref #4] Besides putting adequate family health care out of many workers reach, the demand that housekeepers clean 17 rather than 15 rooms per day is another risk to health. As I observed last fall [Ref #5], in a study based on OSHA records for 87 hotels from 1999 to 2007, UNITE HERE found,
On average, hotel workers experienced an injury rate of 6.4 per 100 workers, meaning that, in each year, more than six percent of the hotel workforce in these hotels suffered a documented workplace injury. Hotel housekeepers, however, faced a significantly greater injury rate of 10.4%, which is 86% greater than the injury rate experienced by non-housekeepers (5.6%). [Ref #6, p. 8]
And the faster they are required to work — in order to meet higher housekeeping quotas imposed by employers — the higher the risk of injury:
In recent years, the workload that hotel companies demand housekeepers perform has increased significantly. Chronic understaffing, coupled with the addition of time-consuming amenities—luxury items like heavy mattresses, fragile coffeepots and in-room exercise equipment—have placed housekeepers at greater risk of injury. In order to complete their room quotas, housekeepers are increasingly forced to skip meals and other breaks—rests necessary to prevent injury. Today, housekeepers’ bodies are at the breaking point. [Ref #6, p. 4]
But what the hell do the owners of either the Sheraton or the Hilton care, so long as they can rake in more profits for their own top management.
See references for more background on the Sheraton boycott. Stay tuned for more news of the four illegally fired workers. And, most importantly,
Don’t give the Sheraton, or the Hilton, any of your business
until they have negotiated & settled fair contracts with their workers.
- 11/16/2009. “Sheraton, Hilton workers unite to promote boycotts — WORKLOAD: Union says hotels want more rooms cleaned per shift” by Elizabeth Bluemink (Anchorage Daily News).
- 11/18/2009. “Vacancy (please)” by Brendan Joel Kelley (Anchorage Press).
- 2/3/2010. “In Brief” by Brendan Joel Kelley (Anchorage Press).
- 1/22/2010. “Government by psychopathy” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
- 10/1/2009. “In solidarity with Hilton workers” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
- April 2006. Creating Luxury, Enduring Pain: How Hotel Work is Hurting Housekeepers (UNITE HERE). (Available through the Take Action page on the Hotel Workers Rising website.)