Doubletree Hotel Picketed in Demand for Fair Unionization Process
BOSTON/Allston – The DoubleTree hotel in Allston was picketed on Thursday as protestors called on its operators Hilton Worldwide and its owner Harvard University to grant their demand for a fair unionization process.
A number of hotel employees and around 200 supporters demonstrated outside the hotel claiming that workers have not received a fair process in their unionization efforts, and highlighting poor working conditions and low pay.
In an interview, Sandra Hernandez, who has been working in housekeeping at the hotel for 22 years, told Open Media Boston through an interpreter, “I’m fighting for a fair process, because I have my husband and my daughter who don’t have health insurance,” and because she alone is insured through the hotel’s policy.
Referring to Hernandez, the interpreter says, “yesterday, she brought her daughter to the emergency room; she thought she had MassHealth for her daughter, but she realized she actually doesn’t; so she feels really frustrated, because she doesn’t have the money to pay for the health insurance.”
“I don’t know what else to do besides fight, because my husband doesn’t have a good job either,” says Hernandez.
According to a report into the jobs available at DoubleTree carried out by Harvard student Gabriel Bayard on behalf of the UNITE HERE union, some of the major issues faced by workers includes injuries, pain, stress, inadequate health insurance coverage, and low wages.
The reports explains that “On March 12th, 2013, a supermajority of workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree came together to ask their employer for a fair process to decide upon unionization.”
Under a similar unionization process, Harvard Law School dining services workers chose to become members of UNITE HERE’s Local 26 in December 2011.
“However,” the report continues, “on May 8, 2013 in a letter to Local 26, Harvard Human Resources stated that the University ‘respectfully declines Local 26’s request for the University to insert itself into this organizing campaign.’ Since then, workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree have not received a fair process.”
The demonstration was also supported by Harvard students, many of whom are affiliated with the on campus Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM).
In an interview with Open Media Boston, SLAM member Sandra Korn explained the demonstration, saying “the workers have voted to launch a boycott of the hotel, which means that we’ll be asking people who are checked into the hotel to check out, and we will be asking people who are considering staying at the hotel to cancel their reservations or not book reservations.
“And in-particular since the hotel is itself owned by Harvard university and I’m a student at Harvard, we’re going to be particularly targeting Harvard university affiliates and groups, asking them to cancel reservations they have at the hotel, and not book further reservations at the hotel, until the hotel grants the workers a fair process to unionize,” Korn continues.
She says that the working conditions for DoubleTree employees are “really a shame,” and she says that Harvard as “the richest university in the world,” has the “ability to treat workers well on campus, and so we just want to make sure that the workers at the DoubleTree hotel have the same standard of union representation, the same health benefits, the same ability to bargain for their wages as the workers on campus.”
In response to a request for a press statement, a Harvard spokesperson declined to comment, telling Open Media Boston that the university “does not operate the Doubltree Hotel,” and referring questions to the hotel’s operator.
According to a Hilton Worldwide spokesperson, “Hilton provides some of the best jobs in the hospitality industry and is committed to offering a workplace environment where our team members are treated fairly and with respect, including respecting the right of our eam embers to choose or not choose collective bargaining representation.
“We have informed UNITE HERE that we do not believe a true majority of Doubletree by Hilton Boston-Cambridge employees wish to be represented by any union for purposes of collective bargaining. The appropriate and fairest process for determining whether a majority of employees wish to be represented is through a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board,” the statement continues.