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The non-profit Employee Rights Center this afternoon attempted to stage a press conference near the Hilton hotel in Mission Valley to accuse the hotel’s operator, Conneticut-based HEI Hospitality, of wage theft totaling approximately $250,000.

Those arriving to cover the event, however, were greeted by exceptionally loud music emanating from behind a hedge on the Hilton property. Throughout the event, the music continued, nearly drowning out the speakers, even after they moved their podium over a hundred feet from the noise source and were using a public address system of their own.

When I walked around the corner to ascertain the source of the music, I found two men next to a limousine with large speakers aimed at the crowd and a power cord leading back toward the hotel. As I snapped a photo with my phone, three other men wearing business suits who had been standing near the building entrance quickly approached. I was grabbed by the arms by two of the men, one of whom tried to wrench my phone from my hand and throw it to the ground. The third appeared to be filming the incident on a phone camera. After a brief struggle and explanation that I intended to resist their efforts to destroy my property, one released me and I broke the grip of the other.

I was advised I was trespassing on private property as they pursued me down the driveway, as well as that all photography on the property was forbidden. None of the individuals were willing to provide their names for this story or an explanation for the speakers aimed at the neighboring property.

Back at the adjacent parking lot, the demonstrators elected to continue with their conference, despite the noise interfering with the one television camera present. Alor Calderon of the Center introduced the problem and the speakers.

“After a thorough investigation, we found that 28 out of the 100 employees that work at the San Diego Mission Valley Hilton have credible claims against their employer,” said Calderon. “These employees are asking HEI . . . to pay a quarter-million dollars in wages and penalties due to their employees under the California labor codes.” He said the claims were currently in process with the local labor commissioner’s office.

Laura Garcia, a housekeeper at the Hilton, said her daily routine included a mandatory morning meeting, plus a trip to stock her housekeeping cart before beginning work. This would leave her about seven and a half hours, she said, to clean 16 or more rooms. She said it was routine to be denied mandatory break and meal periods while on shift.

Garcia was followed by Ramon Alarcon, a server at the property’s restaurant with 22 years of service. He says problems started when HEI took over the property several years ago. Employee shifts were cut to avoid allowing any employee to approach a full 40 hours’ work in a week, he charged. Alarcon also told of cleaning staff, cashiers, and room service workers being let go, with the remaining restaurant staff having to take over these duties. This led to the elimination of legally mandated break and meal periods and a widespread practice of employees being forced to perform labor while “off the clock.”

Rabbi Laurie Coskey, representing the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, closed out the program.

“Before I can bring the support of the faith community to the workers at this hotel, I need to witness [situations such as] we are experiencing at this very moment,” Coskey said over the din coming from the Hilton lot. “The music is amplified so that we don’t hear the voices of the people who work here, and it has been our experience that we have made several delegations to this very management, who have also amplified their deafness in order not to hear the pleas of the people who work here.”

A message left with the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley’s media contact seeking comment on the loudspeaker use and the identities of the men who physically assaulted me was not immediately returned.

Update 8/29/12 - a Hilton employee returned our call to categorically deny anyone was physically accosted by an employee yesterday, and also denied that excessively loud music "had been directed at a neighboring hotel." There are no other hotels directly adjacent to the Hilton.

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Comments

Schweitzer Aug. 29, 2012 @ 10:28 p.m.

Makes one wonder why this reporter set out to make a hit piece. Where's the actual journalism?

Is there any actual evidence these employees didn't get their breaks? Seems fishy that the company would pick on 28 percent of it's employees in front of the other 72 percent. Did he investigate the break room, to see if it was being used by the employees? Or are these accusations merely a ploy to force the company into allowing the workers to organize in a shady, un-open way?

And although this "journalist" was assaulted in plain view of the rooms, valet area, and entrance to this hotel (shoot, wouldn't even be surprised if there are security cameras), no one can substantiate his claim? Not one witness from the masses of "abused," still on-duty employees working the front of this hotel? Maybe a poor valet guy? Or a cause-sympathetic hotel guest? Sounds like a lie, or at least a gross exaggeration. Why the sensationalism, Reader?

Watch this video I found after a whole 30 seconds of research:

In the above video I painstakingly found (geez, I'm a better investigator than the guy who wrote this article) posted by the group protesting, you can see the (Manager? Boss?) tell the group he would be happy to have a negotiation or union election run through the National Labor Relation Board. He doesn't hide from it. He says, "They have the right to organize, we understand." The only aggression seen in the video is from the side of the protesters. Yet now we're supposed to believe the hotel is super aggressive. Is Dave Rice actually one of the protesters posing as a reporter? Why doesn't the group want a fair election run by the NLRB? The only reason I can think of is that they don't have enough votes in the hotel? Why didn't this "reporter" bother to find any of these opposing viewpoints amongst the employees, even though it stands to reason the majority doesn't harbor this level of resentment?

Most of all, why don't you actually do an investigation into the situation at the hotel, rather than a hit piece. As a proud member of a union, I find the tactics that groups like these use are detriment to the rest of us. The reason unions are getting such a bad rap is because of groups like these. Do your union building properly, hold your votes openly and cleanly, or the conservatives are going to keep using examples like this to pick us apart until no one is left believing in the rights of organized workers at all.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 29, 2012 @ 11:24 p.m.

Is there any actual evidence these employees didn't get their breaks?

I guess you cannot read, the evidence came directly from the employees who are quoted.

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Dave Rice Aug. 31, 2012 @ 9:03 p.m.

The "journalist" in question did not "set out to make a hit piece," I can assure you of that. I've covered numerous similar events, and have never before made such allegations - because such actions have never before been taken, although it's been made clear to me on numerous occasions that one side or another didn't appreciate my presence.

If HEI wishes to release the video that was shot by the third individual that was apparently on staff (I have no proof this was the case and thus do not allege that he was) of the other two assaulting and battering me, or to dispute the claim that such events occurred, I welcome it. Likewise, if they'd like to release footage from their surveillance cameras of the northeast corner of the parking lot (which I assume are readily available) from roughly 11:40 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., I invite them to do so as well. My assumption would be that if they had a clear and continuous shot of the area in question and would like to dispute my claim, they would have done so by now without hesitation.

I will not be filing a police report or seeking damages, as I was released once I made clear my intention not to allow harm to my person or my property. While acceptable boundaries were clearly crossed, my intention is not to seek a settlement but simply to report the truth on what happened. I do, however, dispute the assertion made by the men that confronted me that I was guilty of trespass, as I believe the Hilton had created, in essence, a public square by allowing guests and visitors to the property for other purposes free access so long as they were not disturbing the peace, which, again, video surveillance would prove I was not doing.

So far as an investigation into the situation at the hotel, please be assured this will be ongoing, and any action taken either in favor of or against HEI by the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or associated bodies will be addressed as the case progresses.

Thank you for your interest in the matter, I hope you'll continue to follow the case and comment on future updates.

-dr

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 1, 2012 @ 12:50 a.m.

I do, however, dispute the assertion made by the men that confronted me that I was guilty of trespass, as I believe the Hilton had created, in ...

You cannot be guilty if trespass unless there were signs clearly posting to stay out under penalty of trespass, hotels have no such signs.It is a legal and factual impossibility to trespass w/o the signage/notifications, and the law is very specific as to the size, lettering, space between signs etc for a trespass violation. The trespass issue is a nonstarter for Hilton/HEI. If they detained you for any length of time whatsoever hey would be guilty oif fale imprisonment and possibly kidnapping if they transported you anywhere.

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Schweitzer Aug. 30, 2012 @ 8:13 a.m.

I guess you cannot read and extrapolate. The quotes came solely from the minority faction of protesters. That's not evidence. God save anyone who has you on a jury.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 30, 2012 @ 11:08 a.m.

Not only can you not read, you also seem to be lacking a brain, here let me help you out Baby Einstein;

Garcia was followed by Ramon Alarcon, a server at the property’s restaurant with 22 years of service. He says problems started when HEI took over the property several years ago. Employee shifts were cut to avoid allowing any employee to approach a full 40 hours’ work in a week, he charged. Alarcon also told of cleaning staff, cashiers, and room service workers being let go, with the remaining restaurant staff having to take over these duties. This led to the elimination of legally mandated break and meal periods and a widespread practice of employees being forced to perform labor while “off the clock.”

In a court they call that direct evidence. Does that help you lil one?

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Schweitzer Aug. 31, 2012 @ 11:36 a.m.

Actually, that's a claim. A claim is not evidence.

I built the Mars Curiousity Rover in my garage, but JPL didn't pay me. All the credit went to Mohawk Guy. I'm gonna hold a press conference rather than just take them to court.

There you go. Obviously true, because I just presented the evidence. Thank you for using the bold highlights, otherwise I never could have found those claims with my tiny Einstein brain.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 31, 2012 @ 3:49 p.m.

No it is not a claim, it is evidence, to support an allegation, a finder of fact-either a judge or jury- will decide if they believe the EVIDENCE, but it is still evidence nonetheless.

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Shane_F Aug. 30, 2012 @ 8:52 a.m.

Bad show, Hilton. Not just the ripping off of the employees -- stifling their right to speak, and then roughing up a reporter, and then denying the whole thing. Super weak! I won't be staying at a Hilton again.

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David_S Aug. 30, 2012 @ 10:12 a.m.

Schweitzer sounds like HEI management pretending to be a member of the public! They must feel stupid for assuming the reporter was with the ERC and roughing him up.

It is funny that Hilton Mission Valley denied the music, when it was all captured on film by like ten different people, and even broadcast on TV on Univision.

As for the charges, they will go to trial, so... we'll see. HEI has been found guilty elsewhere, in Irvine, to the tune of $41,000, bringing their total pay out including settlement to $99,999.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 30, 2012 @ 11:10 a.m.

Schweitzer sounds like HEI management pretending to be a member of the public!

Obviously an HEI sock puppet.

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Schweitzer Aug. 31, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

Way to play their game, David. Make up a history about me that fits your propaganda. I'm a teacher. AFT. Although, if I was HEI management, I'd still be a member of the public, genius. It's sounds like you're with Unite Here. Tell me, Unite Here guy, why don't you want the NLRB involved in this case? And if we're talking about other cities, why did so many of your members defect to the SEIU? And if I'm hotel management, why don't I have any beef with SEIU?

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