Last November, 84% of union workers at the Sheraton Anchorage voted to put the Sheraton under boycott due to the hotel’s continued unfair treatment of workers & refusal to bargain in good faith. [Ref #1, 2] Last Wednesday, February 17, the hotel illegally fired four workers for engaging in protected union activity outside the hotel entrances. [Ref #2] Friday, UNITE HERE Local 878 held a press conference [Ref #3] to discuss the union’s filing of a claim with the National Labor Relations Board because of the hotel’s illegal retaliation against the workers. (See the Anchorage Daily News & KTVA Channel 11 reports from the press conference. [Ref #4, 5])
But here’s more news from Friday: citing the continuing labor dispute, and the hotel’s failure to address concerns about it, the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development wrote a letter dated February 19 to cancel its agreement with the Sheraton to hold the annual Governor’s Safety and Health Conference there.
I’ve obtained a PDF copy of the letter, which you can view here. [Ref #6] Here’s what it says:
February 19, 2010
In November 2009, the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development (DOLWD) reserved meeting rooms, catering services and banquet space for the Governor’s Safety Conference in Anchorage, scheduled for March 23rd through the 25th, 2010. The purpose of this correspondence is to cancel the agreement between the Anchorage Sheraton and DOLWD.
The Alaska DOLWD has recently become aware of significant negative impacts on the Governor’s Safety Conference associated with the Anchorage Sheraton venue. In December, the Alaska Safety Advisory Council learned labor disputes at the Anchorage Sheraton could lead to a picket line during the conference and sent a letter to General Manager Denis Artiles to express concern about the potential negative impact on the Governor’s Safety Conference. To date, the Anchorage Sheraton has not provided any assurances to mitigate concerns and recent telephone messages to Mr. Artiles have not been returned. On February 11, 2010, the Commissioner of Labor received an e-mail from Ms. Amarjeet Chhabra of UNITE HERE LOcal 878, which explained that the Anchorage Sheraton hotel workers in their organization voted to boycott the hotel and that meant “vigorous picket lines that attendees will have to cross when entering and exiting the premises.”
The success of the Governor’s Safety Conference depends primarily on participant attendance, but is also affected by sponsorship contributions. Labor organizations, which have contributed significant sponsorship donations in the past have indicated they will not contribute to the conference this year. Attendee registrations are currently down by more than 40 percent in comparison to this time last year. If there is a picket line, several individuals including members of the Safety Advisory Council, have indicated they will not cross the picket line. Low attendance will negatively affect the vendors at the conference. The labor situation at the Anchorage Sheraton has resulted in an unacceptable risk to the success of the Governor’s Safety and Health Conference.
For all the reasons stated herein, DOLWD is canceling its reservations to host the Safety Conference at the Sheraton in Anchorage. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at [phone #]. [Ref #6; emphases added]
The letter was signed by DOLWD’s procurement officer.
The letter doesn’t say outright, but seems to indicate that labor organizations declined to contribute sponsorship donations this year because of the boycott called for by the hotel’s own workers. One hopes that DOLWD has been able to find another venue for the Governor’s Safety Conference that labor organizations can feel good about supporting with sponsorship donations.
But what’s really incredible: not only has Sheraton management failed to address DOLWD’s concerns, but its General Manager, Denis Artiles, wouldn’t even return the State’s phone calls about the situation.
Wow, that’s pretty incredible! Who put this guy in charge?
But actually fits pretty well with other stuff I learned over the weekend about the bad decisionmaking & poor management that’s become standard at the Sheraton since Denis Artiles becames General Manager last July.
Artiles works at the behest of Dallas-based Remington Hotels, which manages a number of properties owned by another Dallas-based company, Ashford Hospitality. Ashford Hospitality and Remington Hotels share the same CEO, Monty Bennett, & the same chairman of the board, Archie Bennett (Monty’s father).
But one must wonder: Do those way-up-there boss-of-bosses share Denis Artiles’ disdain for fair labor practices & adherence to the law? And whether or not they do, do they approve of his incompetence in not returning phone calls from an important client, thus contributing to the hotel losing a major conference worth thousands of dollars?
Though one certainly understand why he might not want to return DOLWD’s calls. Unless he was a master B.S.er, I reckon he’d’ve had a pretty rough time reassuring the DOLWD that labor issues wouldn’t disrupt the conference. After all, he had just worsened the labor situation considerably by authorizing the illegal suspension (on February 3) and then the firing (on February 10, though the workers were not actually told they were fired until February 17) of four workers for exercising their legally protected rights under U.S. labor law.
More on Ashford Hospitality, Remington Hotels, the Sheraton Anchorage, & the fired UNITE HERE members in the next couple of days.
- 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).
- 2/18/2010. “Press conference Friday on illegal firing of four Sheraton Anchorage workers (press release)” by UNITED HERE Local 878 (posted on Henkimaa.com).
- 2/20/2010. “Fired Sheraton employees challenge action — BOYCOTT BACKLASH? 4 dispute being let go after protesting work conditions” (Anchorage Daily News).
- 2/19/2010. “Unions protest Sheraton workers firings: A major workers union has filed a National Labor Relations Board claim, saying four former Sheraton Anchorage union workers were fired for participating in union activity” by Matthew Simon (KTVA Channel 11).
- 2/19/2010. Letter “Re: Sheraton Agreement #710-LSS-1189 Governor’s Safety Conference” from Amy Deininger, Procurement Officer, Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development to Sheraton Anchorage