Hotel Workers Detail Human Rights Abuses at Hilton Garden Inn Ithaca and Other Local Hotels

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has embarked on a critical campaign that is keenly focused on organizing with the workers that are most directly affected by low wages; lack of health care; lack of the ability to organize for ourselves in the workplace; a lack of worker’s rights; and a lack of simple free speech.

The following story is from the Ithaca Journal which appeared on Saturday, November 10th, 2007.

Hotel workers stage rally

Ex-employee says she was fired for trying to form union

By Topher Sanders

Journal Staff

ITHACA — A former employee of the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel on East Seneca Street alleges the hotel unjustifiably fired her in August because she was attempting to organize workers at the hotel, said the coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center during a Friday press conference.

Tompkins County Workers’ Center filed a complaint in October with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board againstthe hotel on behalf of Michelle Lopez, a former housekeeper for the Hilton Garden Inn.

Lopez said she had become an unofficial liaison between workers at the hotel and the hotel’s management during her nearly two years of employment at the business. Earlier this year, Lopez said she began earnestly polling workers and pursing information about forming a union at the hotel.

“I was actually pulled down to human resources for discussing a union to support all employees and I was actually told that if I continue to speak about a union that I ‘would be let go and that they did not need a reason to fire me,'” Lopez said to a crowd of more than [80] people who were gathered outside the Hilton Garden Inn on Friday to witness the press conference.

Lopez said she was fired in August after alerting management that female employees had complaints of sexual harassment. Lopez alleges she wasn’t given a firm reason for her firing.

The hotel, which is managed by the Ohio-based Emerald Hospitality Associates, had “no comment” on Lopez’s allegations, said Amie Reiherzer, assistant general manger for the hotel, on Thursday.

“No worker should ever have to leave their rights at the door when they go into the work place,” said Pete Meyers, coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.

The conference went on in front of a large sign that read “Justice For Hotel Workers.”

Meyers noted the press conference’s intent went beyond the Hilton Garden Inn and was meant to put all hotels on notice about the importance of workers’ rights.

“It is not enough to see justice won for Michelle Lopez alone, we’ve got to go further than that,” he said. “The Emerald Corporation and other hotels must commit to the principals of democracy, free speech, the rights of workers to free association and a living wage.”

Lopez said she continues to hear from current employees at the Hilton Garden Inn about harassment and mistreatment.

“Females are letting me know that they are afraid to speak up because they are afraid they will be fired because I was fired,” she said.

Originally published November 10, 2007