Open Letter to Pres. Faust on the DoubleTree Hotel

Student Labor Action Movement
Phillips Brooks House, Harvard Yard
Cambridge, MA 02138

Nov. 8, 2013

President Drew Gilpin Faust
Office of the President
Harvard University
Massachusetts Hall
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear President Faust,

In 2005, Harvard University bought the DoubleTree Hotel, located in Allston close to the Harvard Business School. In March of 2013, workers at the hotel petitioned management asking for a fair process to decide on unionization and to be treated with the respect that they deserve. They have accused management of extreme overwork and complained of the inability of many workers to afford the company health insurance plan for their families. Over 70% of workers signed the petition, and they have continued to fight for a fair process at the hotel.

This fair process has historically been respected on Harvard’s multiple campuses, but has not been respected at Harvard’s DoubleTree Hotel. For instance, in late 2011, cafeteria workers at Harvard Law School who were employed by Restaurant Associates began the process of joining UNITE HERE Local 26. Since labor costs would be passed on to the university, the subcontractor deferred to Harvard, and the administration allowed the workers to proceed without interference.

The large gap between working conditions here on campus, where Harvard maintains good relations with workers and their unions, and working conditions at a property that earns Harvard upwards of $20 million a year, is unprincipled. This university cannot in good conscience claim neutral moral ground on this issue; in addition to its financial gain off the pain of hotel workers, Harvard demonstrated its active ownership of the hotel in 2011, when Harvard Real Estate Services negotiated an agreement with American DG to install a more environmentally friendly electrical system. At that time Ted Mayer, Assistant Vice President for Harvard’s Hospitality and Dining Services, noted, “This is a win for Harvard and a win for the environment.” Harvard now faces another opportunity to create a win for Harvard and a win for workers at the DoubleTree Hotel by supporting a fair process for workers to decide on unionization.

Harvard has, time and time again, demonstrated its integrity by taking a stand on workers’ rights here on campus and acknowledging workers’ place in its community. Even in comparable situations, when workers are subcontracted and not directly under the legal purview of the university, Harvard established a fair and just policy to guarantee parity in wages and benefits compared to direct hires. As such, we believe that Harvard can and should take a similar stance on properties that it owns. Workers at the DoubleTree deserve the same respect that workers on campus enjoy.

For the reasons stated above, we respectfully ask that Harvard University take a proactive stance in respecting workers’ rights and dignity. We ask that you, President Drew Faust, instruct Lisa Hogarty, Vice President of Campus Services, which oversees Harvard Real Estate, to inform Hilton Management at the DoubleTree Hotel that Harvard University fully supports a fair process for the hotel. We additionally ask that Harvard administration make a public statement of its policy and stance on the labor dispute at the DoubleTree Hotel, so that the wider public may be aware of Harvard’s role and position regarding this matter.

We expect to hear from your office soon.

Sincerely,

The Student Labor Action Movement
BAGELS
Harvard College Act on a Dream
The Harvard College Democrats
Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective
Harvard Environmental Action Committee
Harvard Kennedy School Progressive Caucus Manifesta
Perspective Magazine
The Progressive Jewish Alliance
Radcliffe Union of Students
Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition
Students for a Just and Stable Future

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