Monday, April 19, 2010

Students Begin Hunger Strike for Ethical Investment

A group of Notre Dame students began a five-day hunger strike today calling on the university to take concrete action against HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company in which the university is invested. We argue that the way in which HEI treats its workers is unsustainable and in direct conflict with Catholic Social Teaching on workers’ rights, including the right to dignity, respect, fair wages, and to organize. Notre Dame claims to uphold these teachings in its investment policy, but the administration has yet to take seriously the injustices facing HEI workers and has even disciplined us for handing out leaflets about the company. The hunger strike is a call for the university to uphold its professed Catholic mission in its investment practices.

What you can do:

•Sign the petition online (seriously, do it now!)
•Join us in the fast. While there is a group of us fasting for all 5 days this week, there are also a number of people joining for just a day or a few days, and you are welcome to do that. Let me know if you decide to join us by emailing
•Involved in a group? Get them to write a letter and do a delegation to Father Jenkins (there are clubs doing this every day, so different clubs can work together to show more support. YES!)
•Come join us outside of Main Building. We will be there all week waving to Father Jenkins, talking about the issue, and getting people to sign the petition online
•Come to the rally on Friday at 5PM outside of Main Building. It will be awesome to show the administration that there is a lot of support for the workers of HEI!!

Background about HEI and this campaign:

HEI has a despicable record of profiting on the backs of its low-wage workers. HEI has engaged in the following anti-worker practices:
-Drastically cut staffing, forcing workers to take on more work, increasing the risk of on-the-job injury
-Eliminated job functions (combining work)
-Made already difficult work harder by failing to provide enough of the necessary supplies
-Hired anti-union consultants to pressure workers against organizing (specifically at the Long Beach Hilton)
-Threatened employees with losing their jobs if they continue union activity (specifically at Le Meridien in San Francisco)

All of these actions by HEI make already difficult and dangerous work even worse. Virginia Portillo, a Room Attendant at the Sheraton Crystal City described her work:

“For each bed that I make, I have to lift the mattress 12 times. If you multiply that by 2 for all of the double rooms and by at least 16 for all of the rooms we clean, that is a lot. I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder, and I have severe pain in my lower back."
Other workers at the hotel have complained about the same thing. It hurts to lie down, so I can never rest. I have to take painkillers just so that I can work. Maria Patlan, a Housekeeper at the HEI Hilton Long Beach Hotel says the most difficult part is “to do my job while in pain. I do the work of two people.” According to a study published in the Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2009, hotel housekeepers suffer a rate of injuries 25% higher than any other service industry job. In addition, employees have spoken out about the level of disrespect by management as well as the rising cost of health coverage.

These conditions have prompted HEI workers across the country to organize. HEI has tried to block their efforts by hiring anti-union consultants. Workers have testified to NLRB investigators that they were threatened and retaliated against for their union activity. The Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has issued complaints against HEI alleging that the company broke labor laws by, “Inform[ing] its employees that it would be futile for them to select a union as their bargaining representative by implying they would not get a pay raise,” and “Threaten[ing] employees with losing their employment, if they continued to participate in union activity.” The complaints also allege that Ferdi Lazo, a union leader at the Sheraton Crystal City hotel, was fired because of his role in the union. HEI denies these allegations and will face a hearing at the NLRB beginning June 7, 2010.

The way in which HEI treats its employees is unacceptable. We are calling on the University to stop using endowment funds to support HEI Hotels and Resorts. We, instead, should be supporting companies that treat their workers with respect, pay a wage that allows their workers to live above the poverty line, and uphold the mission of this university.

Read more about the workers' fight for justice at HEI.

SIGN UP HERE: CLAP Hunger Strike Against HEI (Mon-Fri)


Sarah Furman said...

I'm hungryyy, om nom nom nom

Bill said...

No food for 5 days? I'm with you guys in spirit, but I just like food too much to participate.

Rabi Abonour said...

A 5 day hunger strike? That is intense.

Thomas Wachtel said...

I can barely do a five hour hunger strike. Fight on.

P.S. Signed the petition.

Henry Vasquez said...

You guys should come out sometime this week! I've been here for 3 hours and we've seen like 20 people talk to us.

Sarah Furman said...

We will be skyping an HEI worker tomorrow evening at 7:30 on God quad (our usual place)- I think you ND kids should make some time to stop by and tell the workers that we support them. I know its 4-20, but bring yourself sober or not =)

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I actually read what you've been doing, although I've noticed all sorts of politically activity on your facebooks (sarah and liz). Very cool. I signed the petition. Good luck starving.

Love, Katlyn

Timothy said...

No one is forcing these employees to stay at their jobs. If they think their lives are so hard, doing the work of two people, then quit. There are 6.5 million people waiting in line for that job that would do it without crying wolf and lying about the situation simply because they are lazy. If HEI is that bad to work for, then all of their employees should just quit and let the company fail. Except that won't happen. You people have nothing better to do than to defend some lazy, incompetent, lying workers? Must be nice to have mommy and daddy hand you everything in life.

Bill said...

...said the guy who's never had a real job

Bill said...

but seriously, your comment is self-defeating.

"If HEI is that bad to work for, then all of their employees should just quit and let the company fail."

Yeah that would work, except,

"There are 6.5 million people waiting in line for that job"

Timothy said...

I was expecting some lecture about fairness in the work force. Well, I didn't get that.

It's not self defeating, its my point. These people will bitch and complain about ANY job that they have. They would rather let university students go on a hunger strike for them, for what? To get a raise? These workers aren't treated that poorly. If they were, maybe they would want a union. They don't. They just want to paid for minimal work. They are lazy. Maybe that is the stereotypical republican mindset: go out and work a hard day's work for a paycheck. If these losers weren't working for this company, and people that would actually do the job for a paycheck without bitching would take the jobs, then maybe the ND students could fight for something a little bit larger.

Liz Furman said...

Friends, Timothy has taught us all a lesson. If we all work as hard as we can and never complain (or simply quit when the job is horrible/abusive, even when there are not other jobs available, and we will most likely end up unemployed), we will succeed. If you are being harassed, intimidated, overworked, it is your fault for being lazy or a loser. Don't stand up for your rights; just give your job up to someone else to get abused. That is the way America should be.

oh to be ignorant enough not to care...

Sarah Furman said...

"These workers aren't treated that poorly. If they were, maybe they would want a union"

but wait, they are fighting for a union; that's the point...