Rather than threatening to quit as they have done in the past to win raises, housekeepers and other workers at the Hampton Inn Richmond-West Innsbrook hotel are preparing to unionize.
“We are not peons. We are human beings,” said Marty Barnett, a 72-year-old employee who has worked at the hotel for 26 years. “We need to be respected – and that’s not just for me or [the people who work at] this hotel – it should be a global thing.
At a small rally at the hotel on Thursday, half a dozen workers demanding to form a union and negotiate a contract with Shamin Hotels, the region’s largest hotel operator, described failing to not making enough money to pay their bills and unpleasant and demanding working conditions. .
Innsbrook hotel workers are trying to form their union as local Virginia public servants, and workers at big companies like Starbucks and Amazon are placing more emphasis on organizing work to get better wages, benefits and conditions. of work.
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Shamin has yet to issue a formal response or statement on the particular union effort.
“They don’t have to breathe dust, [cleaning] chemicals and mold,” Jessica Morton, 28, said of the management. “There are shower rooms collapsing and things sticking out of the wall. All they do is patch it up.
Workers said they made about $13 to $15 an hour plus tips. Although this is higher than Virginia’s minimum wage of $11 an hour, they said it was not enough to cover their regular bills and expenses, but just over the limit to qualify for food stamps and other forms of government assistance.
Desiray Shelton, 39, said she was living with her parents in Hanover County with her two children, ages 22 and 17, because she could not afford a home of her own.
“I take care of my parents and my two children,” she said, explaining that one of her children suffered from epileptic seizures due to a medical condition. “I try to do what I can to keep my parents’ house afloat and still… save money so I can buy something, and it’s hard.” It’s really difficult.”
Tony Miller, Director of Hotel Performance for Shamin Hotels, leads the employee organizing effort at the company-operated hotel.
Shamin Hotels is the largest hotel operator in the Richmond area with more than 60 properties open and under development across Virginia and six other states. About half of his properties are in Richmond and central Virginia. (The company also owns the building in which the downtown office of the Richmond Times-Dispatch is located.)
As an executive at Shamin, Miller acknowledged his role could put him at odds with colleagues and supervisors, but said he believed the company’s hourly employees should be entitled to a higher pay and more respect.
“I have no problem with ownership generating revenue. However, they are forced to reinvest that in their assets and people,” he said. “Ownership here and with most hotels has no no desire to take care of its staff.”
Neil Amin, the CEO of Shamin Hotels, said in an email on Friday that he was “surprised by these claims” after learning about them on Thursday.
“We have always valued our associates,” he said, adding that the company provided hourly associate bonuses during the coronavirus pandemic and established a $100,000 employee relief fund. “Many leaders of Shamin Hotels, including the founders and their families, lived in motels and started out cleaning rooms and working in other aspects of the company’s services.”
Amin declined to comment specifically on the union effort.
Of about 20 hourly workers at the Innsbrook Hotel, 13 of them signed cards to call for a union election, Miller said.
Generally under federal law, employees in a workplace can undertake to form a union if at least 30% of them sign cards or a petition indicating that they want to do so.
The National Labor Relations Board can then certify the union if a majority of workers vote in favor of it in a formal election overseen by the board. Alternatively, employers can voluntarily agree to recognize a union to negotiate collective agreements.
Miller said he expects to lead workers under a new independent labor organization he has formed called Hotel Workers United. He said his goal was also to organize workers at other Shamin properties.