Telling HEI to respect labor
ARLINGTON, Va.--A light projector cast enormous letters spelling out "BOYCOTT" onto the side of the Crystal City Sheraton the night of November 20.
Below, some 50 picketers joined Sheraton workers and UNITE HERE Local 25 in demanding that HEI Hotels & Resorts, the company that owns and operates the Sheraton, agree to card check neutrality. Such an agreement would help protect workers against employer intimidation in the course of determining union representation.
The crowd was driven by a combative energy, pounding drums and chanting "HEI, you're no good--treat your workers like you should!" and "Sheraton, escucha, estamos en la lucha!" ("Sheraton, listen, we are in the fight!").
Workers from the nearby Embassy Suites, already represented by Local 25, came out in solidarity. Community supporters from Jobs with Justice and the National Council of La Raza were also present.
Dan Duncan of the North Virginia Labor Council addressed the crowd with words of support. He was followed by Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada of the Arlington County Board.
HEI, which holds over 30 properties nationwide, strategically purchases brand name hotels and operates them using a number of cost-cutting techniques. These range from reducing hours and paying low wages to limiting basic work supplies like sponges and linens.
Sheraton workers began pressing for a neutrality agreement in February 2009. Since then, they have successfully fought back against HEI intimidation, winning fired union supporter Ferdi Lazo's job back in a National Labor Relations Board settlement last June.
"We want to win," said Virginia Padillo, a housekeeper at the Sheraton. "Other workers in the hotel are afraid, but I am not. We're the leaders of the union and we are not scared."