The following was released by UNITE HERE!:"In a Princeton Resource Committee meeting, President of Princeton University Investment Company, Andrew Golden, stated that the University would no longer reinvest in private-equity hotelier, HEI Hospitality, citing business considerations. A video of portions of that meeting, taken by students, can be seen here. Golden’s statement follows on the heels of four other Ivy League universities making public statements regarding their investments in HEI Hospitality."
Last fall, Yale University, an anchor investor in all three HEI investment funds, made a decision not to reinvest in HEI. Earlier last year, Brown University announced that it will not reinvest in HEI until the University is confident that the hotelier is respecting the rights of its workers. In addition, the University of Pennsylvania stated publicly that it had no current plans to make future investments in HEI-sponsored funds. Over the past few months, Vanderbilt, Swarthmore and Cornell universities have also made similar statements.
HEI’s Troubles Intensify
Contrary to HEI’s insistence that it is a socially responsible investment, HEI has a growing record of exploitative labor practices at their hotels.
In late 2011, a California State Labor Commission hearing officer found the HEI-managed Embassy Suites in Irvine guilty of denying rest breaks required under state law to eight workers and ordered the hotel pay them $41,000. HEI has now settled or been held liable on 32 wage and hour administrative complaints for a total of $99,999 at the Embassy Suites Irvine. Fifty-five similar wage and hour administrative complaints have been filed at the HEI-owned W Hollywood Hotel and the Hilton Long Beach. HEI has denied wrongdoing in those complaints, and adjudication is pending.
In March 2011, eight jurors ruled unanimously that former HEI Senior Vice President Larry Trainor was retaliated against by HEI for filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Subsequently, the judge overseeing the case awarded damages totaling $3.5 million to Trainor, noting the jury’s finding of knowing retaliation. HEI has appealed that decision.
Since 2008, multiple National Labor Relations Board complaints were issued against HEI. In settlement agreements with the NLRB’s General Counsel, in which HEI did not admit wrongdoing, HEI has promised not to threaten to fire workers, take away benefits, or make work more difficult for participating in union activity. HEI even promised not to confiscate food that workers received from the union.
Student Activists and Hotel Workers Focus Efforts on Harvard
Student organizations across the country have protested their university’s investment in HEI. They have led delegations to the administrations’ offices, orchestrated rallies, teach-ins, and hunger strikes and have mobilized the larger Occupy movement to demand an end to university investments in HEI.
“Princeton's decision to not reinvest in HEI is a significant victory for our efforts to uphold the guidelines of socially responsible investing and social justice on campus,” describes Ian Carlin, a Princeton University senior. “We will continue to be a part of the struggle, as students and workers across the country continue to fight for a fair process to organize a safe workplace for HEI workers."
“I have been fighting hard for respect and dignity at my hotel, and Princeton’s announcement makes me hopeful for my family’s future,” says Baltazar Avalos, a 9-year, restaurant server at the HEI-operated Le Meridian Hotel in San Francisco.
“All eyes now focus on Harvard,” said Sandra Korn, a sophomore at Harvard University. “There is plenty of evidence for Harvard to conclude that HEI is not a socially-responsible investment. We think it’s time for Harvard to make the same public commitment Yale, Brown and Princeton have made.”
The University – HEI Connection
HEI receives over 98% of its funding from some of the nation’s most esteemed universities, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and the University of Michigan. Since 2006, Princeton’s endowment has been one of HEI Hospitality’s key sources of funding in its two most recent hospitality funds, having invested a total of at least $94 million. Harvard has invested in HEI’s first two hospitality funds, totaling at least $70 million.
For more information, visit www.HEIWorkersRising.org.
UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.
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