City’s premiere convention hotel terminated 121 hotel workers despite receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans
Jacksonville, Florida — Today, UNITE HERE Local 40 announced a boycott of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of Hyatt Jacksonville took $5.49 million in U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans intended to sustain small businesses and protect workers’ jobs affected by the unprecedented crisis. Yet, Hyatt Jacksonville terminated 121 workers despite receiving the loans. The customer boycott, endorsed by the AFL-CIO, comes as major events return to Jacksonville.
Hyatt Jacksonville is owned by an affiliate of Westmont Hospitality Group. Westmont, an international hotel company that owns and operates over 400 hotels worldwide, received two PPP loans during the pandemic. Six weeks after the hotel was approved for a $3.49 million PPP loan, the hotel issued a WARN notice announcing termination of 119 hotel workers. More workers were terminated before the owner was approved for a second PPP loan of $2 million. Recipients of these loans were required to spend 60% of PPP loan proceeds on payroll costs to justify loan forgiveness.
Meanwhile, the hotel took advantage of the lull in visitors during the pandemic to undertake a multi-million renovation of its meeting and event space. Jacksonville is currently experiencing a resurgence in group business and setting record occupancy levels. Hyatt Jacksonville has not responded to the union’s questions over whether they offered to reinstate the 121 workers.
UNITE HERE Local 40 and Florida labour and community are urging residents and all travellers to not sleep, eat or meet at Hyatt Jacksonville. “We held our 2016 and 2022 State Conventions at the Hyatt Jacksonville, but we refuse to use the hotel while it is under a boycott. The hotel should have done the right thing by bringing back its staff instead of terminating them during a public health crisis. Companies like Westmont — which benefited from COVID relief funds — should be held accountable for its treatment of hospitality workers who continue to be left behind in the recovery,” said George Thurlow, Florida Young Democrats President.
“It is disappointing that the Hyatt Jacksonville mass terminated their staff during the pandemic. The AFL-CIO has chosen to withdraw all our business from the hotel until restoration of workers’ jobs has been secured. This isn’t what we expect to happen in Florida. We expect Westmont to respect workers and call them back as business returns,” said Russell Harper, North Florida CLC President, AFL CIO.
Other hotels owned by Westmont Hospitality terminated workers during the pandemic. Pan Pacific Vancouver (Canada) terminated nearly 100 long-term staff, most of them women of color. The hotel has refused to bring them back as business recovers. A former worker filed a lawsuit against the hotel over wrongful terminations last year; the lawsuit was given the green light by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge to proceed as a class action.
Affiliates of Westmont Hospitality took over $48 million in publicly funded COVID-19 relief funds across North America.
Media contact: Stephanie Fung, [email protected], 604-928-7356