Housekeepers at Irvine Embassy Suites filed complaints last month with the Orange County Health Department alleging unsanitary practices sanctioned by hotel supervisors. They pointed to cockroach infestation, dirty drinking glasses and moldy ice machines with a cheesy-looking substance encrusted near the chute. On Halloween, costumed cockroaches and green slime monsters joined UNITE Here Local 11 staffers and Irvine city councilman Larry Agran for a press conference, repeating the alleged health code violations while handing out plastic cups to those passing through the hotel.
But would an inspection give Irvine Embassy Suites a clean bill of health?
Before answering that question, a hotel first took swipes at UNITE Here Local 11 in a letter sent to the Weekly, saying the allegations of unsanitary practices were part of its unionization effort. “Complaints to the Orange County Department of Health…are undoubtedly another tactic of the union,” writes Ken Beck, Director of Sales N Marketing with Embassy Suites Irvine. “These allegations are completely baseless and false. The hotel received passing grades on all of the items inspected.”
On October 30, between 7-8 a.m., an environmental health specialist with the county took to the hotel rooms of Embassy Suites Irvine and reported the findings of her initial investigation. “Per inspection this date, no signs of vermin observed,” she wrote in the comments of the inspection report that Beck sent to us and that is not public record. “No signs of improper washing of ware or cleaning of surfaces noted.”
Hotel workers had filed complaints saying that the drinking glasses were rinsed in guestroom sinks with cold water and dried with the same rags used to wipe down coffee machines and floors. “A routine inspection had been conducted of this site regarding the rooms on 06/13/13. No signs of vermin noted and glassware washing in compliance. The management also provided their pest control service receipts for review.”
Nothing was said in regards to any inspection of the ice machines, one of which had been independently tested and found to have had 56,000 colony forming units (cfu) per milliliter (ml) of bacteria and 24,000 cfu/mi of mold.
“We stand 100% behind the complaints,” says UNITE Here communications specialist Leigh Shelton. “It appears to us that the health inspector did not observe housekeepers clean the rooms.”
A request for comment from the Orange County Health Department regarding its methods has not been returned by press time.
Other areas of inspection done that day that are public netted some minor violations in the hotel's restaurant. They were knocked, in part, for unsanitary equipment and told to remove grime from the top of the dish machine.
In the end, Embassy Suites Irvine may have bigger allegations of violations to worry about than vermin and dirty drinking glasses. Before the government shutdown, the National Labor Relations Board general counsel hit the hotel with a 20-page complaint taking management to task for everything from threatening termination of employees for wearing union buttons and unlawfully interfering with leafleting activities.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled on January 27, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz