Thursday, March 25, 2010

Biased Observer Article? About HEI? Can't be...

Today in the Observer is a shamelessly biased article basically trashing our HEI campaign and calling us uninformed. This is ridiculous. We are informed. We have researched. We have talked to workers. We are right; HEI is an abusive and unethical company that needs to be held accountable by a university that supposedly upholds Catholic Social Teaching. Yeah, this article fucking sucks, and that reporter included hardly any of our 45 minute interview where we responded to many of Malpass's claims expressed in the article.

The text of OUR side of the story that was NOT published:

We appreciate Sarah Mervosh’s interest in the issue of Notre Dame’s investment in HEI, and after a half hour interview with her on Monday, we are sad to see that essentially none of our arguments were given space in her article. The information she used concerning HEI was solely from Malpass’s point of view, skewing the article strongly in his favor. It is upsetting that the article gives the impression that we have not done our research or that we are misinformed. Neither of these is true.

We have spent countless hours reading about and researching HEI. We know when it started, who started it, how many HEI hotels exist, where they are, how they operate, what their goals are and how they have gone about achieving them. Our findings are not positive. As Scott Malpass says,
UNITE HERE has got to our students and convinced them the HEI is a bad company even though the evidence doesn’t support that at all
We have not been “fed lies” by UNITE HERE!. Rather, we have read on our own and spoken with workers. Our conclusions are not from a place of ignorance.

[has]spoken to … employees, including general managers of the hotels, wait staff, housekeeping staff and front desk personnel,” Malpass said. “They were all complimentary of the company.
In our meeting last spring, we asked him what that meant. His response- he had stayed in an HEI hotel and asked those who served him in the hotel what they thought of their job. What employee of a hotel, when approached by a well-dressed, wealthy-looking guest in their establishment would risk their job and bad-mouth their company? Of course Malpass has heard nothing but good things; other than those workers he has only spoken with CEOs and Human Resources, whose job is to make HEI look good.

We have actually spoken to employees and received honest responses. We have spoken to workers who have been at these hotels long before HEI bought them. They have seen layoffs, extreme increases in workloads, mismanagement, understaffing, lack of supplies, decrease in health insurance coverage, and rising costs of health care to the point where many can no longer afford it. These are not lies spread by the union; they are factual stories told by the workers. We spoke with a former employee of HEI, a gentleman who has worked at many different hotels across the country. His view: the HEI hotel was by far the worst hotel he has ever worked in. The working conditions were abysmal, and the employees had no space to voice their opinion.

Malpass said HEI is not “anti-union” in any way. HEI is clearly anti-union. In fact, they spent over $90 thousand dollars in the year 2008 alone on anti-union consultants, whose entire purpose is to help the company keep unions out of their hotels. The information for 2009 has yet to be made public, but there is little doubt that this number has increased. In 85% of union drives, the employees face intimidation by the employer. It is not surprising that HEI is using the same tactics.

Malpass is correct that HEI has yet to be indicted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But it is disconcerting that he refuses to acknowledge that they have had a series of complaints issued against them and will, in fact, be on trial April 6th for these allegations. The workers have made their complaints, and they have been recognized as valid by the NLRB- why is Malpass ignoring them?
To date, there have been no findings by any court, government agency or arbitrator against any of HEI’s hotels.

Student groups at universities across the country are fighting for the same cause. At the end of February, the president of Brown University wrote a letter to HEI showing her concern about their labor practices. Last week, Yale followed suit, issuing a similar statement to HEI about their concern that their company is against the investment practices of HEI. These two universities, who are unaffiliated with any religion, have made public statements of concerns about the allegations against HEI. Why is Notre Dame, a Catholic university who claims to stand for justice and the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, once again falling behind in taking a stand?

Despite Malpass’s request that we take on a different issue, we will continue our fight for Notre Dame to divestment from HEI in name of the thousands of employees facing unjust working conditions at HEI hotels across the country. His job is to make the university money; of course he is going to avoid addressing an issue regarding an unethical investment in a growing company.
I applaud our students’ interest in the issues and concern for workers and workers’ rights to organize,” he said. “I continue to support efforts to raise awareness about unfair labor practices in general, but we have done a thorough review [of HEI] and it is clear that issue is simply the union.

Rest assured, Mr. Malpass, this is not the last thing you will hear from us.

Let's use our beautiful, progressive voices to spread the truth =)

Sign our Petition and tell others to do the same!


ShamRockNRoll said...

Great post! I was really surprised by how one sided today's Observer article was!

Bill said...

This is the kind of lazy journalism that has become the norm in modern media. By merely repeating what an official tells you rather than doing any research (reporting!) a media publication ends up being a mouthpiece for power rather than a check on that power.

This is particularly disappointing for the Observer, since it's supposed to be a newspaper for the students.

Colleen Lowry said...

Sarah, you look fabulous in orange!

Liz Furman said...

Right, We talked to the writer for the Observer for 45 minutes, and yet none of our responses merited a voice in this article? What kind of journalism is this? Malpass accuses us of being basically mindless followers of some big bad union coming in (entirely ridiculous), but he's the one teaching students not to question his authority and investment decisions. A student to believes him without fact-checking and researching is a student who is doing exactly what Malpass denounces so strongly. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I understand your anger about the article. I did notice however that you seem to have few facts and essentially no evidence. What few facts you mention come without sources. I am not going to say you are a lazy journalist, but your case would be greatly strengthened by the inclusion of verifiable facts and respectable sources. Anyhow, its great to see you guys fighting for what you believe.