|By Jeff Swiatek, The Indianapolis
StarMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 21, 2009 - Doorman William Selm, once recognized as one of the city's top hospitality workers, has lost his post at the Westin Indianapolis in a spat with management that union organizers say involves an effort to organize hotel workers.
Selm's departure after 14 years on the job led to a protest Friday by about 25 hotel workers and union supporters. They marched into the 573-room Downtown hotel to read a petition to General Manager Dale McCarty. Signed by more than 300 people, the petition asks the Westin to "bring back Bill."
McCarty agreed to meet with the group later to discuss the issue.
In an interview, McCarty called Selm "a good guy," but said he decided last month to tell the valet service that runs the Westin's front door operations to assign Selm to another hotel. McCarty wouldn't discuss the reason he wanted Selm gone.
Selm has been openly supportive of efforts by Hotel Workers Rising Indianapolis to organize workers at the Westin and two other local hotels. He spoke at a public rally by union organizers last April.
Selm said he was told by Towne Park Services, the valet contractor at the Westin, that McCarty wanted him reassigned for remarks made to another Westin worker about outsourcing jobs at the Westin.
Selm said his new job at the Sheraton Downtown pays less than minimum wage and involves working only two or three days a week.
Selm said he "relished" his job at the Westin, where he won a 2003 ROSE Award, presented by the Indianapolis mayor to hospitality workers who represent the city well in their jobs.
The Westin outsourced Selm's job and about 11 other front-door jobs to Towne Park last summer. Last week it also outsourced about 40 jobs in its franchised restaurant, Shula's, to another contractor, Culinaire International of Dallas. Culinaire kept many of the existing staff, McCarty said.
Liam Roche, a Westin room service worker who took part in the rally for Selm, said he is worried his job could be outsourced. He said the switch to a new operator at Shula's has led to long delays in preparing room service meals at the hotel, which is hosting football players and scouts attending the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend.
McCarty said the Westin plans a major upgrade to Shula's this year. Contracting out restaurant operations and other hotel jobs is a common tactic to improve operating efficiencies, McCarty said.
Marc Carbonneau, organizing coordinator for the hotel union, said Selm's departure is "an indication of the reason why workers here are trying to organize."
The union has tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to get the Westin, Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites and Hyatt Regency Indianapolis to agree on a "fair process" for conducting a union vote by their workers, Carbonneau said.
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