FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
25 November 2011
Contact: Jeff Bridges or Fenna Krienen
Cambridge, MA — At their General Assembly this week, Occupy Harvard made it clear that they continue to stand for real change at the university by calling for a to halt future investments in HEI Hotels and Resorts, a hotel management company with a history of unethical labor practices.
“Students at Harvard have been pressing the university to halt investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts for more than three years,” said William Whitham, a sophomore at Harvard College and member of Occupy Harvard, as well as the Student Labor Action Movement. “Harvard is a major investor in HEI, and these workers’ lives can’t wait. As difficult as it may be for Harvard to follow the lead of another Ivy, we need to look to Brown University as a model and stop investing in HEI. Last I checked, their endowment was still just fine even without adding more HEI to their portfolio.”
Brown University declared last February that it would halt future investments in HEI due to ethical questions about labor practices.
Mildred Velasquez, a housekeeper at the W Hollywood, declared that “working here is no better than working at a sweatshop. These universities give HEI millions of dollars. They are the real owners of this hotel. They are responsible for our working conditions.”
On October 28, 2011, workers at the HEI-owned W Hollywood walked off the job to protest not being able to take breaks. Although California state law allows workers two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one 30-minute paid rest break in an eight-hour shift, workers say that increased workloads, short-staffing and insufficient time prevent them from taking breaks.
On October 2, the California State Labor Commission found the Embassy Suites in Irvine guilty of denying rest breaks to hotel workers and has ordered the hotel pay $36,000 to workers. The Embassy Suites is managed by an HEI subsidiary.
Harvard College senior Karen Narefsky says, “I am occupying Harvard because I want Harvard to be a university that works towards the interests of the 99%. Halting investments in HEI is the next step to Harvard acting in an ethical and socially responsible way.”
More information about HEI Hotels and Resorts can be found at http://www.heiworkersrising.org/.