The next battle over union rights is being fought on college campuses.
That fight extends to Penn, which appears to be invested in HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company that buys and manages hotels and is being accused of creating poor conditions for workers.
HEI is locked in a battle with UNITE HERE, an employees union that alleges that HEI workers have seen their working conditions worsen due to cost-cutting measures.
The union hopes that by applying pressure to colleges, they in turn will force HEI - which specifically targets universities as investors - to change the way it does business, said Sarah Roberts, a research analyst for UNITE HERE.
The effort at Penn started earlier this semester, when the Student Labor Action Project reached out to University administrators to discuss Penn's investments in HEI.
HEI employees complained of being the victims of aggressive cost-cutting measures-, working long hours for little pay and being forced to provide their own supplies to clean rooms, said Natalie Kelly, a College senior and SLAP leader who interned at the union over the summer.
SLAP is hoping to have a conversation with Penn administrators about the extent of Penn's holdings in the company. It wants the University to pressure HEI and refuse to make any more investments until this happens.
Kelly also complained that the University has been generally unresponsive to SLAP.
Though neither HEI nor the University would confirm that Penn is invested in HEI, UNITE HERE provided The Daily Pennsylvanian with a slide it says it obtained from a presentation that two HEI executives made at Cornell University in October 2006.
In it, Penn's crest is listed along with those of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan.
The slide appears to list these universities as investors in two out of three investment funds HEI manages. The union says it got the slide from a Cornell student who downloaded the presentation from a Cornell Web site.
HEI declined to confirm or deny that executives used that slide, though a Cornell Web site confirms that two executives did speak at the school.
Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli said that if Penn were invested in HEI, it would have few ways of exerting influence on the company because of the way in which managed funds are structured.
He added that Penn isn't currently looking to invest in HEI and countered claims that the University has been unresponsive to SLAP. He sent an e-mail to Kelly earlier this week offering to meet with the group.
The controversy only seems to be heating up, however. UNITE HERE filed a complaint Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that HEI is illegally interfering with workers' attempts to unionize at the company's Hilton Hotel in Long Beach, Calif.
The complaint centers around claims that HEI has intimidated workers who have spoken on college campuses.
And SLAP doesn't seem mollified by Carnaroli's assurances. It met with members of the Undergraduate Assembly to apply further pressure on the University and is gearing up for its meeting with administrators.
"They have not really listened to our voice . on this matter," Kelly said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.