Boston Hotel Workers Join National Day of Action to Shine Light on “Shadow Bosses” Driving Cuts to Services in the Hospitality Industry

With Events in 21 Cities, UNITE HERE Calls on leaders in D.C. to Close Hotel Owners’ Tax Loophole, End Job Cuts

Boston, MA — 100 hotel workers and members of the hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 26, along with workers in 21 cities across the U.S., organized a National Day of Action on Thursday to shine a light on the “shadow boss” hotel owners they say are driving cuts to jobs and services in the hospitality industry. Workers will rally outside the IRS building in Government center and will be joined by State Senator Lydia Edwards and Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn.

Hospitality workers’ union UNITE HERE is calling on major hotel owners called REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) to stop pushing for job cuts and are asking leaders in D.C. to close the tax loophole that enables REITs to avoid paying taxes on billions paid to investors. In Boston, many major hotels are owned by REITs including the Hilton Logan (Park Hotels & Resorts), the Sheraton (Host Hotels & Resorts), and the Park Plaza (Sunstone Hotel Investors). As part of the actions workers will hold signs that rename hotel REITs as the hotel industry’s “Real Estate Income Tax Scandal.

Eighteen publicly traded hotel REITs paid $3.4 billion in dividends in 2019. REITs do not pay income taxes on these billions because they claim not to operate or manage the hotels they own. But earnings calls reveal the role that REIT executives play in the operations of hotels they own. A core service cut driven by REITs is the elimination of daily room cleaning and sanitation as an industry-standard, which UNITE HERE estimates would impact 180,000 housekeeping jobs primarily held by women of color across the U.S. hotel industry. Read our report, “Playing Dirty,” to learn more.

In November of 2021, Park Hotels & Resorts Inc listed operating priorities which include “permanent reduction of full-time, hotel-level staffing” including “contactless check-in/room service,” “limit housekeeping,” and “eliminate or re-purpose unprofitable F&B operations.”

“We do think that given the crisis, and you don’t want to let any crisis go to waste, we have been working hard and working with our operating partners and also talking with the union about opportunities to rightsize that [operating] model,” said Park CEO Thomas Baltimore in a 4th quarter 2020 earnings call. That same year as hotel workers faced unemployment and cuts to their jobs, Park TRIPLED Baltimore’s pay.

Sebastian Morales, a doorman who has worked at the Park-owned Hilton Logan in Boston for 15 years, says that REITs owners seek to maximize profits by taking away jobs and services. “When these companies cut costs, it means they are cutting jobs and conditioning the guests to expect less. At the Hilton Logan, they have removed overnight room service and the buffet. What the owners don’t understand is that human workers are their most valuable asset. I’ve had so many guests say that they can stay at any hotel, but the reason they come back here is because of employees. We are the ones who take care of the guests and make their stay a good experience.”

Susana Coelho, a front-desk operator who has worked at the Hilton Logan for almost 19 years, says that in the past year, she has seen a reduction in the number of available shifts and cutbacks on guest services. Coelho used to love her job, but now, she says, “Park doesn’t care about the employees; they only care about the shareholders. So many of us have devoted our lives to this hotel—we come in to work during blizzards and bend over backwards to do our jobs well. Guests come back because of employees. But the owners don’t see our value. As long as they have food on their tables, we don’t matter. It’s heartbreaking.”

Carlos Aramayo, President of UNITE HERE Local 26, says: “REIT owners are operating behind the scenes to line their shareholders’ pockets on the backs of skilled and dedicated workers. Their hotels are taking away good jobs from the real people who make the hotels run. Reducing services also hurts customers, because hotel guests expect in-room dining and daily room cleaning.”

Contact: TiffanyTen Eyck, tteneyck@unitehere.org, 313-515-1807
Lynette Ng, lynette@local26.org, 413-275-8195

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UNITE HERE Local 26 represents workers in the hospitality industries of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Our members work in Boston and Providence’s best hotels, restaurants, and university dining halls in addition to the Boston Convention Centers, Fenway Park, and Logan International Airport. We clean hotel rooms, greet guests, and prepare and serve food for hundreds of thousands of travelers to Boston and the northeast. UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada, representing over 300,000 workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports, and more. Ninety-eight percent of its members were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sixty percent remain out of work today.

 

 

As Workers Rise Up During “Striketober,” 10,000 Hospitality Workers March, Picket, Vote to Unionize, and More in Fight for Good Jobs

After extraordinary pandemic hardships, hospitality workers in 29 cities across U.S. and Canada say it’s time to “Come Back Stronger” with variety of events on October 28

NEW YORK – After months of lay-offs and hardships, over 8,000 UNITE HERE Hospitality Union workers across the U.S. and Canada are demanding better jobs in a variety of events on October 28 – including marches, pickets, rallies, a strike vote, a unionization vote, as well as internal events such as meetings with management. Workers’ renewed militancy has made headlines during so-called “Striketober,” and hospitality workers are fighting for a recovery with good jobs under the banner “Come Back Stronger.”

At the peak of the shut-down, 98% of the union’s members in hospitality were out of work, but the union has been a model of resiliency, fighting to restore good union jobs in hospitality and unionize new industries. Today, many hospitality workers say their jobs haven’t come back even as business rebounds and employers complain of a labor shortage. In hotels for instance, companies like Hilton have announced new policies automatically opting guests out of daily housekeeping. UNITE HERE estimates that ending daily housekeeping industrywide would eliminate up to 39 percent of all U.S. hotel housekeeping jobs and cost housekeepers $4.8 billion in annual lost wages.

But today’s events in cities across the United States and Canada show housekeepers and other working people in hospitality determined to make a comeback.

“The hotel industry wants to go back to full occupancy without ever bringing back the full workforce, but we are fighting to stop them,” said Yolanda Chen, a housekeeper for five years at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco, where hundreds of hotel workers will march on October 28. “Over the past few months, Hilton has only called me back to work three times, and I cannot find a job with the same wages and health care that my coworkers and I have won through many years of organizing. We want to get our jobs back so our families can recover from the pandemic.” Read our report, “Playing Dirty,” to learn more.

Meanwhile, workers at HelloFresh – America’s #1 meal kit company – are voting on forming the booming meal kit industry’s first-ever union. The elections come with public approval for unions at record highs. While meal kit orders exploded and HelloFresh’s US revenues doubled last year, workers endured a COVID outbreak, safety issues, and poverty wages. Today, 400 meal kit workers at HelloFresh’s facility in Aurora, CO begin voting on whether to join UNITE HERE, while another 770 workers in Richmond, CO will soon vote on the same question.

“For HelloFresh, the pandemic was a business opportunity, but for us workers, it’s been a nightmare,” said Yesenia Bustos, who works in shipping and receiving at HelloFresh in Aurora, CO. “I’m voting for the union because we’re under so much pressure to make the meal kits, workers are constantly being injured in our kitchen, and my wages aren’t enough to support my family. These are the jobs that have been created by COVID, and they should be good jobs.”

“Workers are fed up with bad jobs and unsafe working conditions, and now they’re seizing the moment to come back stronger in an economy that has favored too few for too long,” says D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE. “Every time there’s a crisis, the hospitality industry cuts jobs to boost profits, but we are fighting for a recovery where no one gets left behind. We are the Comeback Union, and we are determined to fight for one another, to bring the good jobs back and grow the union movement.

Workers and union leaders, including President D. Taylor, are available for interview. Please contact Ted Waechter at twaechter@unitehere2.org and MJ Leira at mleira@unitehere.org to coordinate.

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UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada, representing over 300,000 workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports, and more. Ninety-eight percent of its members were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sixty percent remain out of work today.

 

Workers protest as hotel closures drag on and on

A small group of hotel union workers in red-and-black T-shirts reading “Come Back Stronger” gathered outside a closed-for-construction Copley Square Hotel Thursday, asking that the hotel’s owners reopen the storied property and reinstate their jobs.

The hotel has stood at Huntington Avenue and Exeter Street since 1891, making it Boston’s second-oldest hotel in continuous operation. But it has been closed for months, for pandemic restrictions and now renovations. Its main phone line was disconnected Thursday.

Hawkins Way Capital, a Beverly Hills-based real estate company, bought the hotel in 2019. At the time, company officials said in a press release that they planned to “update and reconfigure the guest rooms and significantly improve the hotel’s common and retail areas.”

“The property is still under construction, we are working with the city to get that cleared,” Joshua Bird, general counsel for Hawkins Way Capital, said Thursday. “We are trying to open as soon as possible, as soon as we can manage.”

Bird said he did not know when employees could expect to hear about their jobs.

“We’re trying to stay as open as we can, but we really don’t have more information,” he said.

The Copley protest was part of a day of actions from hotel, casino, and food service workers across the United States and Canada organized by UNITE HERE union locals. Workers, some of whom had to work through the pandemic and others who saw their jobs vanish when lockdowns began, asked their employers to reinstate lost jobs and amenities such as room service, which have been cut in some hotels despite an increase in business over the summer and fall.