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DoubleTree Hotel Workers Allege Illegal Interference With Unionization Process

By Christine Y. Cahill and Samuel Y. Weinstock, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: April 22, 2013, at 4:42 p.m.

Employees of the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Boston, which is housed in a Harvard-owned building, filed charges of unfair labor practices on Wednesday alleging that management illegally interfered with their unionization process. The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, follow a March petition by workers that announced their intention to begin the process of deciding whether or not to join UNITE HERE! Local 26, the state branch of a national union that represents more than 250,000 workers.

Brian Lang, the president of Local 26, said that hotel management had violated labor laws in three ways and that he was “very confident” the NLRB, which investigates and adjudicates labor disputes, would rule in the workers’ favor after an investigation.

First, Lang said that hotel management prohibited union organization in the hotel. Second, he said that they spied on workers engaged in union activity. Finally, he said that management cut the hours of Andrew Pattison after identifying him as a union supporter.

Pattison had led the petition effort in March, Lang said.

“He was one of the leaders,” Lang said. “It’s against the law [for hotel management] to retaliate like that.”

Pattison, who works at the hotel’s Scullers Jazz Club, said that his hours were cut from 40 per week to 10 to 15 per week two weeks after he participated in the petition delegation.

“They’ve had a couple of different excuses, but it’s clear to me and to everyone else that they did this to punish me for standing up,” he said.

Pattison said that he thought hotel management was trying to intimidate workers.

“I think they’re trying as hard as they can to really scare people, and we’re still fighting and showing them that they can’t scare us, and they can’t stop us,” Pattison said.

In an emailed statement, the hotel's General Manager Jayne Barrett responded to the claim that management was interfering with workers' unionization by writing that management does not believe that a "true majority" of the hotel's employees want to unionize.

"We respect our employees right to choose, and voting in a secret ballot election conducted by the federal government is the proper method," Barrett wrote.

Barrett’s statement did not address the alleged retaliation against Pattison or the claims of spying on union activities.

Located in Boston across the Charles River from Harvard’s main campus, the hotel has been owned by Harvard since January 2005 but is not managed by the University.

Lang said that because of Harvard’s connection to the hotel, the University has a responsibility to rectify allegedly illegal labor practices.

Harvard spokesperson Paul Andrew declined to comment on the matter, saying that the University has no hand in the hotel’s management.

Lang said that the situation at the DoubleTree is “very comparable” to the protests at the Le Meridien Hotel in Cambridge, where workers claim that management has attempted to interfere with the unionization process.

—Staff writer Christine Y. Cahill can be reached at christinecahill@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @cycahill16.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: November 25, 2013

An earlier version of headline of this article and statements in the article stated that the DoubleTree Suites hotel is Harvard-owned. To clarify, the company is housed in a Harvard-owned building.

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