Hilton Anchorage Workers Join National Columbia Sussex Actions!
Fed up with layoffs and pay cuts, hotel workers boycott 8 Columbia Sussex Hotels,
Saying “Stop making us pay for your debts!”
Today, Hilton Anchorage workers join other Columbia Sussex hotel workers around the country in telling their employer that they are tired of paying for the company’s debt and want a fair process to organize a union at actions around the country. Hilton Anchorage workers will pass out flyers to customers at 4pm today and ask them to boycott 8 hotels owned by the company.
Hilton Anchorage is owned and operated by Kentucky-based hotel company, Columbia Sussex. The 160 Hilton Anchorage workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 878, have been negotiating with their employer since July 30, 2008. These workers are simply asking to maintain the same working conditions and benefits listed in their expired contract. On May 20, 2009, Hilton workers overwhelmingly voted to place a boycott on their hotel and have been pulling business from their property ever since.
In the past few years, hotel workers at 3 other union hotels owned and operated by Columbia Sussex – Baltimore Sheraton City Center in Maryland, Hilton Crystal City in Northern Virginia, and Hilton Sacramento West in California – have also faced a variety of cuts, including layoffs, benefit reductions, pay freezes, higher costs for health insurance, and/or work speed-ups in the wake of their hotel’s acquisition by Columbia Sussex. These three other hotels are already subject to boycotts, and today, UNITE HERE is calling on customers to boycott 4 additional Columbia Sussex hotels in support of its call for a fair process to organize a union. They are: Westin Washington DC City Center, Westin Emerald Plaza San Diego, Wyndham Chicago and Westin Chicago Northwest.
Mary Lee Hinant, a Baltimore Sheraton laundry worker for 34 years, said: “Ever since banks lent all that money to Columbia Sussex to buy my hotel, my paycheck is smaller, I don’t qualify for health insurance anymore, and my co-workers are laid off.”
Columbia Sussex is the fourth largest owner of full service hotels in the U.S., building its 67-hotel empire during the boom years by borrowing heavily to buy hotels. Five of the eight boycotted hotels were acquired by Columbia Sussex in 2005 in a package of 14 hotels, where 79% of the purchase price was borrowed. The $1.1 billion of debt supported by these 14 hotels comes due in October 2010. This debt was sold to lenders and investors as commercial mortgage backed securities called Bear Stearns 2006-BBA7 and collateralized debt obligations called Guggenheim 2005-1 and Brascan 2005-2.
“Since Columbia Sussex bought the hotel several years ago, staffing has been cut. Columbia Sussex reduced our wages by 3% across the board and stopped paying the match on our 401Ks,” said Laurence Green, a 24-year cook at the Westin Washington DC City Center.
“I’m down to working 3 hours a day when I had a full time job, and I’m tired of being squeezed in Columbia Sussex’s cost cutting,” Says Vickie Castro, a housekeeping office clerk for 23 years at the Hilton Anchorage.
“It seems clear to me that Columbia Sussex is not satisfied in profiting from our decades of loyal, professional service building the fine reputation of this hotel, but now wish to squeeze us, the same workers that are the very foundation of Hilton’s good name,” says Steve Gilles, a bellman for 21 years at the Hilton Anchorage.