Canadian Hotel Owner Cited in Congressional Letter Urging Greater Transparency on Forgiveness of U.S. Paycheck Protection Program Loans

U.S. Representatives highlight loans to hotel chain Westmont Hospitality Group in letter to Small Business Administration calling for “vigilant oversight” of loan forgiveness process.

Vancouver, B.C. – Members of U.S. Congress are raising questions about U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans received by the hospitality industry and highlighting Canadian hotel owner, Westmont Hospitality Group, which received $48 million in PPP loans. Westmont affiliates own or operate more than 20 hotels across Canada, including Pan Pacific Vancouver. 

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) along with 17 other co-signers, sent a letter to the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration to call for greater transparency in light of concerns whether PPP loans were used in accordance with congressional intent to protect hospitality workers’ jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The letter urges the SBA to provide increased oversight regarding forgiveness of the loans before they are forgiven.  

The letter highlights Mississauga-based Westmont Hospitality Group, an international hotel company that owns and operates over 400 hotels around the world, as an example of the need for “vigilant oversight” and improved transparency. According to data provided by the SBA, Westmont affiliates received $48 million through 44 PPP loans that were tied to approximately 5,300 jobs. Despite this, the letter states, a lack of transparency by the SBA has made it “impossible” to determine whether those 5,300 jobs were actually retained, yet over $28 million of the Westmont-connected loans have already been forgiven.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act of 2020 in an effort to support small businesses and save jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP borrowers must spend at least 60% of their loans on payroll costs in order to receive full loan forgiveness. 

UNITE HERE Local 11, the labor union that represents hospitality workers in California and Arizona, presented evidence to Congress Members regarding one hotel connected to Westmont that received a PPP loan but issued WARN Act notices that it had permanently separated 122 workers, raising the question whether PPP had really served its purpose of protecting jobs.   

On Wednesday, UNITE HERE Local 11 submitted testimony to the House Small Business Administration’s Small Business Oversight, Investigations and Regulations Committee hearing titled “An Empirical Review of the Paycheck Protection Program.”

Among the entities that received loans listing Westmont’s Texas office address, seven listed “Red Roof Inn” but did not indicate which specific hotel properties were recipients of PPP funds or whether workers benefitted from the loans.  

Westmont owns and operates dozens of Red Roof Inn properties in the United States.  The company is also affiliated with R&R Real Estate Investment Trust (TSXV: RRR-UN) which owns a portfolio of Red Roof Inn hotels in the United States that are managed by the family company that owns Westmont. Westmont president, Majid Mangalji, serves as the Executive Chairman and is the largest shareholder of R&R REIT. According to public filings, R&R REIT received loans worth $1.3 million under the U.S. CARES Act. They have since been forgiven. 

Congressional letter available here

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UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing hospitality workers throughout British Columbia. UNITE HERE Local 40 and UNITE HERE Local 11 are affiliates of UNITE HERE International Union.  The union represents Westmont workers in certain hotels across Canada and the United States.

 

UNITE HERE Local 40 Launches Week of Action to Spotlight Westmont Hospitality’s Treatment of Pan Pacific Vancouver Workers Actions planned in 20 cities worldwide

WHAT: UNITE HERE Local 40 is kicking off a week of action to call attention to Westmont Hospitality’s treatment of Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel workers during the pandemic. Actions will take place in 20 cities worldwide to urge Westmont to return workers to their pre-pandemic jobs.  

WHEN: Sunday, March 13th to Friday, March 18th, 2022

WHO: UNITE HERE members, international labour allies, and community activists across North America and Europe.  

WHERE: The week of action kicks off in London, England with actions planned in 20 cities across Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and Europe.

WHY: Westmont-owned Pan Pacific Vancouver terminated nearly 100 workers during the pandemic rather than commit to return them to their pre-pandemic jobs as business recovers. Of the total number of women fired, 94% were women of colour. Some of the affected workers served the hotel for over 20 years. Westmont took advantage of the pandemic to dispose of their long-term workforce. Meanwhile, Westmont affiliates took over $48 million in taxpayer backed COVID-relief funds across North America, including Canadian wage subsidies intended to retain workers through the pandemic. Westmont, based in Mississauga and Houston, is a multinational hotel owner and operator with over 400 hotels worldwide.

Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356 or [email protected], or Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785 or [email protected] 

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UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.

Media Advisory: Locked Out Hilton Metrotown Workers to Hold International Women’s Day Rally

Hospitality workers’ union will launch petition calling on wedding vendors to support locked-out women

WHAT: Locked out Hilton Metrotown hotel workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, will hold a rally today, Tuesday, March 8th,  International Women’s Day to call on the hotel to respect BC’s #UnequalWomen by resolving the lockout and returning them to their pre-pandemic jobs. On this day, UNITE HERE Local 40 will also launch a petition urging wedding vendors to support Hilton Metrotown workers and avoid doing business with the hotel.

WHERE: Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, 6083 McKay Avenue, Burnaby

WHEN: TODAY, Tuesday, March 8th at 2:00 PM (Pacific) 

WHO: Locked out Hilton Metrotown workers and community allies.

WHY:  As Hilton Metrotown launches marketing to women promoting the hotel as a wedding destination, UNITE HERE is calling on wedding vendors on International Women’s Day to support workers locked out at the hotel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hilton Metrotown management terminated 97 long-term hotel housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, servers, front desk, and other staff. Many of the workers terminated are women. Shortly after, the hotel locked out the rest on April 15, 2021. Workers have been on the picket line for 11 months.

VISUALS: Locked out hotel workers and community allies marching, chanting, and carrying red signs and noisemakers outside the Hilton Metrotown.

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UNITE HERE Local 40 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.

Kemano Staff House Staff Ratify New Collective Agreement, UNITE HERE Local 40 Creates New Standard for Remote Camp Workers in BC

Kemano-Kitimat, BC Camp workers from ESS Support Services at Kemano Staff House have ratified a new collective agreement with a 100% “yes” vote this week. UNITE HERE Local 40, BC’s camp workers’ union, continues to maintain the highest standards for remote camp workers across the province.

Culinary and housekeeping employees will now be earning the highest wages in BC for camp workers. In addition to the increase in wages, the new collective agreement recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th as a paid statutory holiday for ESS employees. Local 40 commends ESS’s respect to Indigenous workers, as the day is intended to educate and remind Canadians about the history of residential schools and honour those who were impacted.

Robert Demand, Local 40 Executive Director and BC Building Trade Executive Board Member: “We want to acknowledge Compass ESS’ continued commitment to the local Kitimat community and for providing fair wages that take into account the rising cost of living in our members’ communities.”

Last month, close to 60 ATCO employees in Valemount on the Transmountain pipeline voted to join Local 40. The Union has organized more than 400 workers over the past two years, raising the living standards for remote camp workers across BC.

Local 40 continues to organize Civeo employees across the province. Late last year, Civeo was found by the Labour Relations Board to have violated the BC labour code by giving improper support to the BC Regional Council of Carpenters and unduly influenced workers against Local 40.

Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected]

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UNITE HERE Local 40 is the camp and hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the industrial camps, hotels, food service and airports throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.

UNITE HERE Local 40 Issues Travel Advisory for Pacific Gateway Hotel

Customer boycott in effect as hotel reopens

Vancouver, B.C. – B.C.’s hospitality workers union is alerting travellers and meeting group customers that a boycott of Pacific Gateway Hotel is in effect. The federal government, which was using the hotel as a quarantine facility, pulled out of Pacific Gateway in January citing concerns over the hotel’s treatment of workers. Workers went on strike after the hotel terminated 143 long-term staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pacific Gateway is reopening to the public after months of serving as a designated quarantine site housing travellers potentially exposed to COVID-19. PHAC relocated to another Richmond area hotel this month and said in a statement, “we have expressed our disappointment with Pacific Gateway and their treatment of their unionized workforce throughout these challenging times.” Workers had urged PHAC, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, and his predecessor Minister Patty Hajdu, to move out of the hotel. 

The 380-room hotel terminated the vast majority of its staff during the pandemic, including most of its housekeeping staff. Despite the workers’ long tenure – some with 20, 30, even 40 years of service – management has refused to return them to their jobs as regular business operations resume. A terminated room attendant filed a human rights complaint on behalf of 89 women fired by the hotel over the disparate impact of terminations on women of colour.  

“During the height of the pandemic, the owner of Pacific Gateway fired 90% of our housekeeping staff. Who is cleaning the hotel now? They threw our experienced staff away like garbage. We ask future hotel guests to respect our picket line and please stay somewhere else,” said Pardeep Thandi, a long-term hotel housekeeper. 

Workers went on strike in May 2021 and have remained on the picket line for nine months. The B.C. Federation of Labour issued a boycott calling on affiliated unions and the broader public to book at alternative venues. The Canadian Labour Congress, representing over three million workers across Canada, also endorsed the boycott. 

Pacific Gateway is co-owned by PHI Hotel Group and an offshore Bahamas-based investor. 

For more information, please contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected], or Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

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