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.”
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.
Contract Enforcement Organizer
UNITE HERE Local 26 is a progressive labor union that represents workers in the hospitality industry. Our members work in hotels, food service and casinos throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Our goal and commitment is to develop leadership among the rank and file members, organize the unorganized and to build a strong union based on membership involvement and participation.
Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to working for social justice by building a strong labor movement. The position entails irregular hours including work in the evenings and weekends. People who speak Spanish or Cantonese are strongly encouraged to apply.
- Represent members in grievance procedures.
- Mobilize members to participate in picket lines, rallies and demonstrations.
- Work with union shop steward and leaders to defend the union contract and carry out the union’s city-wide program.
- Identify and develop leadership among the rank and file members.
- Conduct union committee meetings.
- Experience as a union representative and/or organizer preferred.
- Willing to work long hours and weekends, as needed.
- Commitment to rank and file leadership development.
- Ability to work with minimum supervision.
- Ability to work with a diverse, multi-cultural membership.
- Ability to speak one of the following languages preferred: Cantonese, Spanish, Haitian Creole.
- Commitment to organize the unorganized.
- This position requires a car – please specify if you have one and a driver’s license.
Salary and Benefits
- Starting $54,000, commensurate with experience
- Excellent benefit package, including Health and Dental Insurance, Pension, Legal Assistance and Car Insurance allowance for business use.
To Apply: Please send a cover letter, resume and answers to the following questions to:
Laura Moye, Enforcement Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.