Letters to the Editor

An Undesirable Relation

To the editor:

I’m writing in response to the article published in your Feb. 29 issue titled “HEI Loses Princeton Dollars.”

Now that Princeton has joined Yale, Brown, and other leading universities in committing to not reinvest in HEI Hospitality, Harvard’s current relationship to HEI stands out increasingly sharply. I personally am waiting with concern for the Harvard Management Company to finish its review into HEI’s labor practices.  Many other Harvard students, faculty, and staff feel the same way. We already know that the National Labor Relations Board has charged HEI with intimidation and coercive behavior towards its workforce. We already know that HEI’s hotel Embassy Suites has recently been found guilty under California state law of denying employees in physically demanding jobs their legally mandated rest breaks. We already know that multiple HEI hotels are now under boycott at the urging of their own workers.

It only remains to be seen what further information HMC’s review will uncover, and what action the University will then take. Whether this will be a decision not to reinvest, or a stipulation that HEI make substantial changes to conform to a legal and ethical standard consistent with Harvard’s own, I hope that Harvard’s involvement with HEI can be prevented from permanently staining our reputation for fairness and compliance with the law.

Sincerely,

Clio Griffin ’15

Cambridge, Mass.

An Unfair Accusation

To the editor:

Your recent story (HEI Loses Princeton Dollars—02/29/12) is wrong on key facts and unfortunately has misinformed your readers by publishing information from biased sources without appropriate fact checking or editorial balance.

At HEI, we treat our employees with the highest degree of respect and dignity. As the employer of over 5,500 employees at 41 hotels, we strive to comply with all labor laws and regulations. Our employee tenure is nearly double the industry average, and our employee satisfaction scores surpass those of our industry peers. With regard to regulation, the factual data is clear: Of those HEI cases brought before the National Labor Relations Board, the vast majority were deemed to be without any merit or were withdrawn by the claimant. HEI has never been found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Our success in growing hotel occupancy rates throughout the economic recession led to an almost 18 percent increased earning potential for employees over the past four years. Additionally, since 2007 the company has invested in the construction of three new hotels in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Hollywood that created 757 local jobs and purchased two troubled hotels that preserved another 228 jobs. These investments have created meaningful jobs and fueled economic prosperity throughout the country.

To date, no university has made an investment decision based upon any employment allegations against HEI. Further, the Princeton University Investment president stated that its decision regarding HEI is “based purely on business reasons, and it would be absolutely wrong to infer that PRINCO had concluded that HEI was out of compliance with regulations or industry standards.” To suggest a causal relationship between unsupported allegations from biased parties and university investment decisions is specious and wrong.

The union that The Crimson cites so extensively in its reporting is engaged in a campaign to increase its membership, and its dues, by organizing hotel employees, who are not given the opportunity to vote in a secret ballot election on the decision to organize—the same democratic process endorsed by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court to elect leaders. HEI welcomes the opportunity to extend this democratic privilege to our employees.

In the future, we encourage The Crimson to provide its readers with accurate information and a balanced perspective rather than republish union propaganda promoting its own financial interest. Our commitment to socially responsible employment practices is clearly highlighted by HEI’s industry-leading employee satisfaction scores. The misinformation contained in this article only serves to harm the very employees that the union purports to defend.

Sincerely,

Nigel Hurst

Senior Vice President, Human Resources

HEI Hospitality, Inc.

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