UCI Law Clinic Issues Report on Unlawful Labor and Employment Practices by The Westin Long Beach Hotel
IRVINE, Calif., May 18, 2016 — The University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) investigated compliance with domestic and international labor standards at The Westin Long Beach Hotel (Hotel) and concluded that the Hotel’s labor and employment practices in the areas of wages and hours, preservation of prevailing standards in the industry, and freedom of association appear to violate applicable domestic law and international labor standards, as well as best practices for the treatment of workers, as detailed in this report. This is the fourth case involving conditions of work for hotel employees that the Immigrant Rights Clinic at UCI Law has handled since the founding of the clinic in 2011.
Because the Hotel is overseen by AEW Capital Management, a U.S. based affiliate of the French firm Natixis Global Asset Management, it is bound by the core conventions of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
With nearly 500 guest rooms and more than 37,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space, the Hotel provides luxury accommodations and extensive banquet event services, and has an on-site restaurant. IRC initiated this investigation in response to a request from UNITE HERE Local 11 (Union), a labor union that is assisting workers at the Hotel in their effort to unionize and improve labor standards. IRC investigated these issues through interviews with workers, a review of relevant documents, and economic research. The workers raised with IRC a number of issues concerning their treatment by the Hotel relating primarily to wages and hours and freedom of association.
As detailed in the report, the IRC’s inquiry found that the Hotel appears to have violated workers’ rights in the following areas:
- Wages and Hours: The Hotel appears to have violated California wage and hour laws, including by failing to pay housekeepers for all of the time that they spend each day preparing their work materials and by denying workers in various departments the opportunity to take uninterrupted rest and meal breaks.
- Prevailing Standards: Economic data compiled by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) indicate that the Hotel provides workers with substantially less generous health care benefits than the prevailing standard at similarly situated hotels in the region, thereby violating a key principle of the OECD Guidelines.
- Freedom of Association: The Hotel appears to have violated workers’ rights to organize a union by threatening that the Hotel will lower workers’ wages if they decide to unionize, conveying a view that support for unionization amounts to disloyalty, and denying union representatives equal access to the workforce to counter the employer’s anti-union messages.
Primary report author Sam Cretcher said: “While the report uncovered apparent violations of state, federal, and international laws and standards, one of the more troubling aspects of the investigation was learning that The Westin failed to respect even the basic human dignity of its employees despite their five, ten, or twenty years of loyal, committed service to the hotel. Management’s decisions appear to be driven by non-economic motivations that fundamentally undermine the dignity of their employees.” Cretcher is a 2016 graduate of UC Irvine School of Law.
Report co-author Sameer Ashar said: “U.S. entities like the Westin Long Beach Hotel are bound by international labor standards, such as those of the ILO and the OECD. When businesses with transnational influence and control flout those labor standards, they undermine the dignity of their employees and weaken the U.S. workforce.” Ashar is Clinical Professor of Law at University of California, Irvine School of Law and Co-Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic.
About the Immigrant Rights Clinic at University of California, Irvine School of Law
The Immigrant Rights Clinic represents individuals and organizations on critical issues affecting low-income immigrants in the region. Students work under the close supervision of experienced clinical faculty to provide pro bono resources on a range of legal issues, from detention and deportation matters to workplace exploitation and the protection of civil and constitutional rights of immigrants.
Clinic students litigate on behalf of clients in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies. They develop traditional lawyering skills, such as client interviewing and counseling, fact investigation, legal drafting and trial presentation. In addition, modern legal practice demands problem-solving methods beyond those skills. Immigrant communities targeted by aggressive law enforcement initiatives have been sites of innovative social and political organizing. The Clinic supports that work by partnering with organizations to conduct community education and advance policy reform campaigns. Through rigorous, structured reflection, students distill lessons about legal practice from their fieldwork.
UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic ContactsSam Cretcher
(949) 824-9868, firstname.lastname@example.org.