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]

Press Release: Rosewood Hotel Georgia staff highlight disparity at Canada’s #1 hotel

VANCOUVER – Staff at Canada’s top-rated hotel, Rosewood Hotel Georgia, held a boisterous demonstration yesterday in the heart of downtown Vancouver.  Nearly three hundred workers and supporters gathered outside the luxury hotel to protest working conditions that do not meet its five-star standard.  The hotel has been rated the #1 hotel in the country, with rooms priced at $550 a night and higher.

photo: Michael YC Tseng

“We provide a very high level of service at our hotel and have been consistently recognized for our quality.  We need jobs and wages that match the excellent service we provide to our guests every day,” said James Sugden, a cook at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

Hotel Georgia room attendants, cooks, servers, stewards, and other staff, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, were joined by a large contingent of hotel workers from nearby downtown Vancouver hotels as well as community and labour supporters.  They called on the owner, Pacific Reach Properties, to raise the bar when it comes to treatment of workers, especially women, in their hotel and restaurant establishments.

In 2017, Pacific Reach Properties bought the Hotel Georgia, described by one publication as an “adult playground.”  Several female staff recently reported concerns about how the company handles harassment experienced by women on the job.  The Union has reached an agreement with hotel operator, Rosewood Hotels, who has committed to address specific concerns about discrimination and harassment in an effort to improve the working environment.  Terms of the settlement are confidential.

Hotel Georgia workers want industry-settings wages and job standards commensurate to the elevated level of service they are expected to provide.  Some staff report the need to work second or third jobs to make ends meet and the need for expanded access to medical benefits.  Other issues include the lack of supplies needed to perform their work and additional concerns about safety.  The Union is currently in contract bargaining with the company to provide the best standard in the city and pressing for further safety measures, such as panic buttons and bans on guests who sexually harass staff.

Rosewood Hotel Georgia is one of five downtown hotels currently in contract bargaining with UNITE HERE Local 40 this summer.  There are approximately 1,500 hotel workers represented in the five hotels.

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For more information, contact: Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

Media Advisory: Demonstration at Canada’s #1 hotel to call for safe, secure jobs

WHAT: UNITE HERE Local 40 will hold an action this Thursday at Rosewood Hotel Georgia, rated Canada’s #1 hotel, to create a work environment that meets its five-star standard. Hotel staff and community leaders will be calling on the owner, Pacific Reach Properties, to raise the bar when it comes to treatment of workers, especially women, in their hotel and restaurant establishments.

WHERE: Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 W. Georgia, Vancouver

WHEN: Thursday, June 20, 2019; 5:00PM PST

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Contacts: Michelle Travis, (778) 960-9785, [email protected];
Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]

UNITE HERE Local 40 Bylaw Amendments

Proposed bylaw amendments will be discussed and voted on during UNITE HERE Local 40’s General Membership Meeting taking place:

Wednesday, July 31st at 5pm 

BCIT Downtown Vancouver – Rm 54
(555 Seymour Street)

Click here to view or download the bylaw amendments

For any questions please contact [email protected]

Thank you, The UNITE HERE Local 40 Team

UPDATE: UNITE HERE Local 40 Press Conference at Rosewood Hotel Georgia

Vancouver – Today’s press conference, scheduled for today at 12PM, has been cancelled so that the parties can meet and attempt a resolution of all related concerns over a 10-day period.

WHAT:          UNITE HERE Local 40 press conference at Rosewood Hotel Georgia

WHERE:        Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 W. Georgia, Vancouver

WHEN:          Wednesday, June 5, 2019; 12PM PST CANCELLED

Contact: Michelle Travis, (778) 960-9785, [email protected]

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PRESS RELEASE: UNITE HERE, NDP MP Brian Masse call for investigation into privacy, security risks for Canadian companies tied to Chinese state-owned Anbang

Masse urges federal Privacy Commissioner to investigate concerns

Ottawa – UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, and MP Brian Masse (Windsor West), NDP Critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, held a press conference today on Parliament Hill to raise questions about privacy and security risks faced by those working in, or in the care of, Canadian companies tied to Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese-state owned enterprise. Anbang owns Canadian nursing home chain, Retirement Concepts, and has ties to Canada’s largest hotel company, InnVest Hotels.

Masse is calling on Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien to launch an investigation into privacy and security risks to Canadian customers, employees and operators of Chinese state-controlled Anbang and Bluesky, whose ownership is murky and its president is a former Anbang executive. The two companies have access to large troves of personally identifiable information on thousands of Canadian workers, seniors, and hotel guests.

Mounting tensions between Canada and China, in addition to news about the Chinese state’s involvement in cyber attacks, such as the intrusion into the Marriott chain compromising the personal information of nearly 500 million Starwood guests over a four-year period, should prompt Ottawa to review these investments in long-term care and hospitality.

UNITE HERE has been meeting with MP’s this week to call for action to protect workers and others whose information may be vulnerable. UNITE HERE represents hospitality workers that work in businesses owned by Pacific Reach Properties, the operator of Retirement Concepts, and Bluesky-owned InnVest Hotels. The Union sent a letter to Minister Bains and Minister Goodale earlier this month questioning whether Anbang is still compliant under the Investment Canada Act since becoming a state-owned enterprise and how Ottawa is securing Canadians’ sensitive personal data under Anbang and Bluesky’s control.

“China’s control over Anbang and its relationship to Bluesky deserves deeper scrutiny. Would Ottawa approve either of these deals today, particularly given the Chinese state’s takeover of Anbang and its aggressive posture toward Canada?” asked Zailda Chan, president of UNITE HERE’s B.C. Local.

An affiliate of Pacific Reach Properties sold a controlling stake in Retirement Concepts to Anbang in 2017. Ottawa approved the $1 billion transaction over strong objections from critics. One year later, the Beijing-based company was seized by Chinese authorities who subsequently transferred ownership to the state. Reports suggest Anbang may have also been behind the acquisition of InnVest Hotels, which holds a portfolio of 80 hotels across Canada. InnVest was acquired by a shell company, Bluesky Hotels, and is fronted by a former Anbang executive.

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Contact: Michelle Travis
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (778) 960-9785