Brown University in Providence, R.I., will stop investing new endowment funds in HEI Hotels Inc. amid questions about labor practices at two of the Norwalk-based company's properties.
The decision, which doesn't affect current investments, heeds a recommendation by Brown's committee on investment ethics following concerns raised by a student group after the company fired an employee who was also a union leader.
"Brown's Student Labor Alliance appreciates the university's decision and hopes HEI will start respecting workers' rights," said Haley Kossek, a member of Student Labor Alliance. "We also appreciate the school's leadership and hope that other schools that invest in HEI will follow Brown's example."
Brown University President Ruth Simmons announced this past week the university would stop investing in HEI Hotels, owner of the Hilton Long Beach and operator of Embassy Suites Irvine.
Simmons said she has accepted the recommendation of the university’s committee on investment ethics, which cited allegations of workers’ rights violations in recommending that Brown end future investments in the hotel company. Workers at both Southern California HEI properties have called for better working conditions and demanded a fair process for deciding whether to organize a union.
HEI Hotels is an investment company that owns and operates more than 30 hotels across the country. It buys hotels and employs a range of techniques to drastically cut costs — a process that workers say comes at their expense. HEI raises capital to buy hotels from university endowments such as those of Brown, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and more.
“This is a monumental victory for the workers of the HEI-operated Embassy Suites Irvine,” said Anna Maria Trevino, a housekeeper at the Irvine business hotel. “The students of Brown heard our pleas for justice and basic rights on the job, and they took those calls to decision makers at their university, demanding change.”
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