A call for ethical investment
Sarah Furman | Friday, September 24, 2010
For over a year now, students have been in dialogue with the administration about Notre Dame’s investment practices, particularly concerning Notre Dame’s investment in the hotel company HEI. HEI Hotels & Resorts is the seventh largest hotel management company in the U.S. and has received over $1.2 billion from University endowments, using this money to buy hotels in order to turn them over and sell them again at a profit. According to workers, cost-cutting tactics at some HEI properties, such as reducing staffing levels and shortages in basic materials, have considerably increased workloads.
This summer has been an exciting and challenging time for workers organizing in HEI hotels. In June, HEI signed a settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board requiring it to reinstate Ferdi Lazo, a worker who was fired at the Sheraton Crystal City in Virginia allegedly for union activities, pay $24,800 of his back wages for the year he was fired and post a public pledge in the hotel to honor workers’ rights.
This summer also marked the first HEI-owned hotel to organize a union. On Aug. 27, after a majority of workers signed cards in favor of the union, HEI recognized “UNITE HERE Local 11” as the new union of W Hotel workers. They now have a voice on the job and the right to bargain a contract, unlike the four other HEI hotels where workers are still publicly fighting for their voices to be heard.
The victory for the workers in Hollywood comes at a time when HEI is under mounting pressure. Hotel workers at the Embassy Suites in Irvine, Calif. went on a one-day strike on Aug. 9 demanding their rights. They were protesting years of missed and denied breaks due to understaffing. Along with their protest, workers filed a complaint with the California Board of Industrial Relations seeking approximately $120,000 in back pay owed as compensation for missed breaks.
Last semester, we presented the concerns of the workers in HEI-owned hotels to the investment office. Despite our concerns, Mr. Scott Malpass, the Chief Investment Officer, assured us that HEI was a good company. He claimed that he would share with us the standards by which the investment office decides that a company is ethical and how HEI meets these standards. We have yet to be given any information that disproves the abuses that the workers have claimed. In light of this, we call on our investment office to provide us with concrete guidelines for ethical investment and to acknowledge the concerns of workers in HEI hotels.