University News

BUCC resolves to support hotel workers

Council recommends U. refrain from holding events at Renaissance Hotel during labor dispute

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2014

BUCC recently passed a resolution in support of Renaissance Hotel workers in their labor dispute with hotel management. Only Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn opposed the measure.

The Brown University Community Council passed a resolution at its meeting Wednesday about an ongoing labor dispute between the owners of the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel — the Procaccianti Group — and workers at the hotel.

The resolution recommends that Brown community members refrain from holding events at the Renaissance during the current labor dispute and notify relevant event-planning bodies of the ongoing dispute at the hotel. It also recommends that the University remove the Renaissance from promotional material for any events.

The affirmative vote came a month after the Brown Student Labor Alliance first brought the issue to the council’s attention, calling on it to pledge public support for the boycott, advise Brown community members not to stay at the Renaissance and honor future worker-led boycotts. The council did not vote last month due to concerns that members lacked enough information to make a decision.

The SLA gave a presentation to the council yesterday explaining that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the Procaccianti Group $8,000 for violating three regulations, including exposing workers’ hands and faces to chemicals without providing sufficient safety protection. Additionally, the National Labor Review Board recently concluded a six-month investigation that found sufficient evidence to bring charges against the hotel owners for violating workers’ rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech.

Passing the resolution would “put pressure on Procaccianti so they’re more likely to make a settlement … and start alleviating worker abuses,” said Cameron Johnson ’17, an SLA member. The Procaccianti Group will meet with the NLRB and later announce a decision to settle or go to trial March 31.

A similar statement passed by the council in 2010 acknowledging a labor dispute at the Westin Hotel “forced management to recognize the union and change the working conditions of the workers,” said Mariela Martinez ’14, another SLA member.

Johnson called on the council to honor the University’s mission statement, which calls for collaboration with and support for the Providence community. He said the University would never tolerate worker abuses on its campus, and there should be no difference between abuses on and off College Hill.

All council members except Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn voted to pass the resolution.

While largely approving the resolution’s goals, some council members had reservations about its details.

Some members expressed concern that the University was taking a side in the dispute by acknowledging a boycott. Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, resolved this concern by suggesting a change in terminology from “boycott” to “labor dispute.”

“The labor dispute is undisputed,” Carey said.

President Christina Paxson invoked her authority as chair of the council to change the wording from boycott to labor dispute, which no council members opposed.

Paxson also criticized the “redundancy” of stipulating that the University issue a public statement in support of the boycott, adding that the passage of the resolution itself was a public statement. The council voted to eliminate a clause calling for a public statement from the resolution.

Kiera Peltz ’16, a BUCC member and a former Herald staff writer, asked SLA members if they felt the resolution had been “watered down” by amendments, but members of the organization, as well as Renaissance workers and labor organizers present, seemed content with the resolution ultimately passed.

“I think we can remain hopeful that this sends a message to the University,” Martinez told The Herald after the meeting, noting that the 2010 Westin resolution mobilized students and Providence community members to stand in solidarity with the workers.

“This will pressure (the Procaccianti Group) to act and do right by their workers. We also know that the fight is not over — that we have to make sure this doesn’t just stay in wording, to make sure it gets out there and people know,” Martinez added.

“A resolution hasn’t been passed in two years,” Stephanie Medina ’14, another SLA member, told The Herald. She added that the resolution “really reminds the students and the Brown community that it’s still possible to make things happen on campus.”

While discussion of the Renaissance labor dispute took up most of the meeting, the council concluded with presentations by the presidents of the Undergraduate Council of Students, Graduate Student Council and Medical Student Senate.

 

A previous version of this article mischaracterized the nature of one of the violations for which the Procaccianti Group was fined. It was failing to take sufficient safety precautions for workers handling chemicals, not using illegal chemicals. The Herald regrets the error.

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  • Alumnus

    All hail Ed Bishop ’54 for his decades-long effort to build a Hanover Inn-type hotel on Brook Street to serve underserved visitors to College Hill. His ideal has always been a building like the Hanover Inn, facing Dartmouth College Green, built harmoniously to scale with the neighborhood. And his plan has always included a parking facility that should please Thayer Street merchants. The urban space created by a building in traditional architectural style, facing the traditional Nelson Center with Pembroke Field in between, would be a beautiful place. It is incredible that Bishop’s vision has been thwarted all these years by dimwitted “Providence types”. It is also a testament to the gutlessness of Brown, which all along ought to have been supporting this project on behalf of Brown parents, Brown alumni, Brown conference attendees, and the thousands of tourists in Providence who never bother to tour the campus because it is a “hill too far”. It is long past time to get the “College Hill Inn” built! And when Ed’s beautiful building is complete, maybe it will embarrass Brown into sprucing up the shabby “Brown Club” building across the street on Pembroke Field.