Labor complaints and HEI Hotels and Hospitality-owned properties go together like dinner mints and pillows. The latest wave comes from Long Beach Hilton workers who claim they are being denied 10 minute breaks required under state law.
Like workers at the HEI-owned Embassy Suites in Irvine, the Ocean Boulevard crew is seeking back pay through a formal complaint to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the state office that enforces labor standards.
"In 12 years of working at the Hilton Long Beach, I did not take my 10-minute breaks because there was never enough time to get all the work done, and take rest breaks," housekeeper Maria Patlan says in a statement distributed by her union. "We clean 16 rooms a day and have just 30 minutes to change the beds, clean the bathroom, dust, vacuum, trash, restock towels, supplies and more."
"I have worked at the Hilton for 11 years, and all those years, I almost never took breaks," says Jose Landino, a cook at the hotel, in the same statement. "I cannot take breaks because there isn't anyone to cover my job, and if I leave my station unattended, I will get in trouble with management."
Workers are allowed two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute break in an eight-hour shift under state law, which also dictates for every day that a 10-minute break is missed, the worker is entitled to one hour of back pay from the employer.
Egging the workers on is UNITE HERE Local 11, the same union that has sicced the National Labor Relations Board on Disney over the treatment of Anaheim resort hotel workers.
HEI, a private equity firm that buys and operates hotels under the Hilton, Marriott and Embassy Suites brand names, was founded in 1985 by Gary Mendell and Steve Mendell, who graduated from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in 1979 and 1982 respectively. They employ many Cornell graduates, including a spokesperson who in 2008 said HEI maintains a "very active relationship" with the university.
UNITE HERE Local 11 claims HEI raises capital to buy hotels cheap, drive down operating costs and sell the properties 8 to 10 years later through university endowments from Cornell as well as other prestigious institutions like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The company is no stranger to labor complaints--especially at the 397-room Long Beach Hilton. Two years ago, managers there violated workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act by "interrogating, coercing, threatening, disciplining and engaging in the surveillance of employees who were trying to organize," according to an Unfair Labor Practice complaint filed by UNITE HERE Local 11. HEI called the allegations unfounded.
In September 2009, the United Church for Christ announced it would honor a boycott called for by UNITE HERE Local 11 amid the organizing spat and move an event to another hotel.
The clashes with Long Beach workers has led student groups at Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago to demand their universities divest from HEI.