Hilton Garden Inn lays off workers, draws fire.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
T his isn’t your typical bellboy request. About 30 riled-up elected officials, union representatives and hotel workers enter the lobby at Hilton Garden Inn in Monterey and demand a meeting with the manager. The hotel recently fired and replaced 12 UNITE HERE Local 483 workers after the property changed hands.
RB Monterey LLC, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio-based RockBridge Capital, took over the Monterey Hilton from Ocean Park Hotels, whose president is James Flagg, a Robert Louis Stevenson School alumnus. The delegation is here to have management tell the new owner that letting go of a dozen workers is not a warm welcome to the community.
General Manager David Price comes out and guides the group upstairs to a gold-colored conference room. Price stands at the front of the room and gets an earful.
Supervisor Jane Parker says the employees aren’t just numbers on a payroll. Salinas City Council Sergio Sanchez, referring to the six displaced workers who live in Salinas, says the firings are the last thing a city with violence and unemployment problems needs. Seaside City Councilman Tom Mancini says the loss of jobs couldn’t come at a worse time, with Quail Lodge scheduled to close Nov. 16. Mancini hands Price a letter from Mayor Ralph Rubio, asking the company to hire back the workers.
Price stays composed and says the hiring process was fair and open. Although 14 workers weren’t rehired, Price says the hotel hired 17 unemployed people, and those who stayed on got raises ranging from 75 cents to $3 an hour. “We feel like we kept the best associates,” Price says after the meeting.
Villamor Caacbay, who had worked at the hotel as a server for 10 years, doesn’t buy Price’s logic. “I think it’s not right,” he says. “We were working here for a long time.” Caacbay says he and some of the other fired workers may have been targeted because they have second jobs.
Maria Santos is worried about paying bills after losing her housekeeping job. “I have two kids in college,” Santos says. “I don’t know how I’m going to help them with their tuition.”
“This was a thoughtless and heartless move by a new corporation that is 2,500 miles from this community,” adds Mark Weller, UNITE HERE projects coordinator.
The union is planning to negotiate a new contract with hotel management, Weller says, adding that the Hilton is now charging workers pricey premiums for health insurance. So far the Oct. 2 hotel visit hasn’t won anyone’s job back.