Two workers who cleaned the Minneapolis Airport Marriott hotel say they were recently fired in what appears to be illegal retaliation for speaking out about unpaid wages and working conditions.
The workers – Silvia Hernandez and Irma Ferman – issued statements through CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, a Minneapolis-based worker center in which they have been active.
“They fired us for standing up for our rights,” said Hernandez, who was employed by Hospitality Staffing Services, a contractor. “We are not asking for anything that is unreasonable. We are asking for what we deserve, like ensuring that we have all of our materials on our carts to clean their hotel rooms. They are trying to take away our dignity and this isn’t right for them to do to us. I want them to give me my job back and stop retaliating against us for exercising our rights.”
Ferman, who was employed directly by Marriott, said she was disappointed with the unjust termination.
“I am very upset that they have chosen to fire us instead of listening to our concerns and working with us to have a better work environment,” she said. “We have been asking for change for months now and they haven’t done anything they said they would to improve our conditions. Instead of taking our concerns seriously, they have chosen to fire us . . .”
Over the past year, Hernandez and Ferman have been vocal leaders, organizing with their co-workers to defend their rights and improve working conditions. In March, they and their co-workers delivered a letter to hotel management detailing problems, including complaints of over $20,000 in unpaid wages and verbal harassment from managers.
In April, they and their co-workers filed charges with the U.S. Department of Labor, charging violations of federal wage and hour laws. The department is investigating.
CTUL is calling on the hotel to immediately reinstate the two workers and to promptly pay the unpaid wages. If the hotel does not reinstate the workers, they could be at risk of charges in a federal investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. The National Labor Relations Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” employees in their right to engage in “concerted activities for…mutual aid or protection.”
This complaint isn’t the first against the hotel. In 2009, the Minneapolis Airport Marriott was ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay more than $60,000 in back pay to other workers who complained of similar issues of wage theft.
Hernandez and Ferman have a combined total of 16 years working at the hotel.