Press Release: Female staff report pervasive sexual harassment at iconic Hotel Georgia, Human rights complaint filed against Canada’s top-rated hotel

VANCOUVER – In response to a new wave of reports of sexual harassment experienced by some staff at Vancouver’s Hotel Georgia, certain female employees have filed a human rights complaint against the hotel for gender discrimination, an overly-sexualized work environment and failure to respond appropriately to incidents of harassment or assault in the workplace. UNITE HERE is the union representing workers at the legendary hotel.

The Hotel Georgia is an internationally recognized luxury hotel ranked the best hotel in Canada by U.S. News & World Report and has earned distinctions from Forbes and Conde Nast. Yet, women tell a different story of what it is like to work at Canada’s top-rated hotel, which is owned by Pacific Reach Properties, a Canadian real-estate company with interests in hotels and restaurants.

“Sexual harassment is a problem for many women working in this industry, and at this hotel in particular. Female servers have been touched, kissed, and have experienced sexual comments and advances from male guests and past managers. I feel that this type of behavior should not be tolerated,” said Sierra Garrison, a server at the Hotel Georgia.

Pacific Reach Properties has yet to comprehensively address the #MeToo experiences of many female staff who continue to come forward with stories of sexual harassment on the job.  According to the human rights complaint, the Hotel Georgia is contributing to a culture of abuse, putting profit and guest satisfaction over the safety of their employees:

  • Certain female employees have explicitly been told that they must “put up with” the sexual assault and harassment from the guests.
  • Management not only condones this behavior by guests, but actively creates an atmosphere that encourages sexualization of female staff for guests.
  • The hotel offers what it describes as “an unmatched combination of legacy and luxury” all the while allowing for certain female staff to be treated in derogatory and discriminatory manner.

“On one occasion, I had a guest reach his hand up my skirt and grab my inner thigh and hold me, not letting go. When I told management about this, they told me that they didn’t want to make a scene so best to just keep serving him. I ultimately left the hotel because I couldn’t deal with the environment there anymore,” said Jesse Perry-Huson, a server at the Hotel Georgia.

UNITE HERE is calling for measures to ensure the safety of women working in Canada’s hospitality industry, such as; panic buttons, a hotel ban of guests that commit sexual harassment, whistleblower protection for those who come forward to report incidents and worker safety representatives to investigate harassment, discrimination and safety issues in the hotel. The Union has successfully achieved these measures in other cities across North America.  Most recently, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion to explore how the city can better protect hospitality and other service workers from sexual harassment in response, in part, to women coming forward at the Hotel Georgia.

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Contact: Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]

UNITE HERE Local 40 represents workers throughout B.C. who work in hotels, food service and airports. Local 40 is part of the UNITE HERE International Union, representing over 300,000 workers in the hotel, food service, airport and gaming industries across Canada and the U.S.

In Memorium: Jean Poulton

Jean Poulton

UNITE HERE Local 40 mourns the passing of Jean Poulton, a long time union representative who served our members for twenty years.  Jean passed away on July 24 after a long illness.  She was a tough, caring fighter for Local 40 members. Jean had a wisecracking sense of humour and a talent for photography and other creative endeavors.  Prior to joining the staff of Local 40, she worked at Harrison Hot Springs.  We miss you Jean.  We extend our deepest condolences to Jean’s family and community of friends.

UPDATE: Vancouver City Hall Listened to Women!

We’d like to thank those who joined over 200 community members and hotel workers at Vancouver City Hall on Tuesday July 23 to combat pervasive sexual harassment and assault in the hospitality industry.

The City Council responded to the community on Wednesday July 24 by voting UNANIMOUSLY for Councillor Christine Boyle and Councillor Jean Swanson’s motion to have the City of Vancouver play a leadership role in ending sexual violence in the hospitality and service industries!

READ THE MOTION BELOW

 

This is a FIRST STEP! Raising awareness about this issue is inspiring more women to speak out about their experiences, and employers are starting to take notice.

Thank you to the following organizations that helped to support our campaign​ or joined us at Vancouver City Hall. Your presence made this an issue that the City cannot ignore, and you helped to support the courageous women coming forward to tell their stories of sexual violence in the hospitality industry:

Vancouver District Labour Council
BC Federation of Labour
BC Government and Service Employees Union
Ending Violence Association of BC
Battered Women’s Support Services
The Coalition of Progressive Electors
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Good Night Out
Hospital Employees’ Union
Health Sciences Association
MoveUp
Amalgamated Transit Union
BC Teachers Federation
Building Trade Council
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213
International Socialists
Living Wage for Families Campaign
Plumbing & PipeFitting Industry Local 170
Ironworkers Local 97
Metro Vancouver Alliance
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Service Employees International Union Local 2
Socialist Alternative
Solidarity Notes
Teaching Support Staff Union
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518
West Coast LEAF
Women Transforming Cities
Professional Employees Association
Federation Of Post-Secondary Educators of BC

 

VANCOUVER CITY HALL MOTION: Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Vancouver’s Hospitality and Service Industries

WHEREAS

1.The safety of women in the workplace remains a top priority for the City of Vancouver;

2.The City of Vancouver has engaged in a variety of ways to strengthen women’s equity, including through the creation of a Women’s Equity Strategy, unanimously adopted;

3.In 2018, the City of Vancouver joined UN Women’s Global Flagship Initiative, “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” (“UN Women Safe Cities”);

4.Vancouver City Council recognizes that safe and healthy workplaces help attract and retain families, and individuals to live and work in the city;

5.The City of Vancouver recognizes and supports the growth of the #MeToo Movement across North America, the human rights of Women, and the need to ensure workplaces in hospitality and service industries are free from sexual assault and harassment;

6.The City of Victoria recently passed a motion to require, among other things, sexual violence prevention training in the local service industry to ensure a harassment-free environment;

7​.Recent sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints have been raised at luxury hotels in Vancouver;

8.Sexual assault reports in Vancouver rose more than 16 per cent since 2016, even as rates of other violent crime decreased or remained steady. Nearly 400 of the 1,431 reported assaults over the past three-years came from the central business district, which includes the Granville strip and other nightlife areas;

9.The City of Vancouver has been concerned in the past with the high rate of crime and sexual assault in the Granville Entertainment District;

10.Good Night Out Vancouver was formed in response to high rates of crime and sexual violence in the Central Business District, and Vancouver City Council recently approved additional funding for Good Night Out Vancouver to continue their important education and intervention work, and to build their fundraising capacity;

11.The City of Vancouver has invested greatly in developing a Nighttime Economy, including passing a recent motion to create “A Comprehensive Strategy for Realizing the Full Potential of the Nighttime Economy in the City of Vancouver”. This work includes keeping the safety of the local workforce in mind, particularly as women constitute a majority of workers in hotels, restaurants and bars and commonly experience sexual harassment in these industries;

12.Attracting greater numbers of tourists and local residents to our downtown social district can yield greater nightlife vibrancy and economic growth, and it can place demands on public safety and create additional risks for vulnerable people, including service and hospitality staff.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to report to Council on recommendations and actions to ensure the safety of women working in the service and hospitality industry. In the development of this report Council direct staff to: 

i.Meet with downtown hotel/restaurant ownersVancouver Police Department, related association, service worker advocate groups (unions and community advocates) to formulate recommendations on how to combat the growth of sexual violence in Vancouver’s hospitality and service industries and in the workplace;

ii.Explore ways to end sexual violence in the city, including in Vancouver hotels, restaurants and bars, as part of its work on the UN Women Safe Cities work and the upcoming nighttime economy strategy;

iii.Report back with implications of and options for mandating sexualized violence prevention training for hotel and restaurant staff as part of either the liquor licence or business licence approval process; and

iv.Report back on options for conducting audits of venues to ensure the staff and environment minimize risk of sexual violence incidents; including working toward a common policy for business operators that establishes a best practices standard for conduct.

Press Release: Women call on City of Vancouver to address pervasive sexual harassment in the hospitality industry, Incidents at Canada’s top-rated Rosewood Hotel Georgia prompt action

VANCOUVER – Several women who work at the Hotel Georgia, Canada’s top-rated hotel, have recently come forward with sexual assault and harassment complaints. The treatment of female staff by Pacific Reach Properties, the owner of the Hotel Georgia, exemplifies the culture of the hospitality industry in Vancouver.  The owner’s newest hotel, the Hotel Belmont, portrays highly sexualized images that objectify women. UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents women at Hotel Georgia and other local hotels is urging the City of Vancouver to take action to ensure safe working conditions for women.  

UNITE HERE Local 40 held a press conference July 23 at 11:00AM outside of Hotel Georgia, followed by a protest at 5:00PM at Vancouver City Hall, in response to persistent sexual harassment and assault reports from women working across Vancouver hotels and restaurants, including the Hotel Georgia.  In the #MeToo era, there remain too many examples of women in the hospitality sector who encounter incidents of harassment.   

The customer grabbed and restrained me so I could not get away. He said multiple lewd comments, and tried to kiss me multiple times as I yelled at him to stop. As I struggled to get away from him kissing me, he bit me on the neck. I finally got away, and he then turned toward me and gave me the middle finger. I was in a state of shock” says Casey Vanderveen, a server from Reflections Restaurant at the Hotel Georgia. 

Women account for the majority of workers in the hotel and food service industry – the backbone of Vancouver’s $4.8 billion tourism industry. This coincides with reports that sexual assault against women in Vancouver have increased 16% since 2016. The highest rate of sexual assault is in the downtown business district where both the Hotel Georgia and the Hotel Belmont are located.  

Councillor Christine Boyle and Councillor Jean Swanson will introduce a motion for city staff to investigate how the City of Vancouver can take a proactive role and ensure hospitality owners provide safer workplaces for their female staff.  

“Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected in their place of work. We have been hearing stories that that isn’t the case for many women working in the hospitality and service sectors. There is no excuse for this and the way these businesses handle staff safety must be addressed” said Councillor Boyle.

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Contact: Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]

Media Advisory: Hotel workers call out sexual violence in Vancouver hospitality industry, Hotel Georgia singled out

WHAT: UNITE HERE Local 40 will hold a press conference outside of Hotel Georgia this Tuesday at 11:00AM followed by a protest at Vancouver City Hall at 5:00PM in response to persistent sexual harassment and assault reports from women working in Vancouver hotels and restaurants. These reports include an incident of assault on a female staff member at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Canada’s #1 rated hotel.

Women working in some of Vancouver’s most prominent hotels are set to come forward with experiences of sexual harassment they have faced on the job that reveal the pervasiveness of the problem and the worst actors in the industry. They are calling on the City of Vancouver to take measures to ensure that all women working in the hospitality industry are safe from sexual harassment and assault.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

11:00AM PST Press Conference
Hotel Georgia, 801 W Georgia St, Vancouver

5:00PM PST Protest attended by women, labour and faith organizations
Vancouver City Hall, 453 W 12th Ave, Vancouver

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Contact: Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]