Tuesday, February 1, 2022

A Second Look (follow up to 1/31)

Back to the Lakefront.

A reader of yesterday’s blog post about labor concerns at Merriweather Lakehouse asked a very good question. I am sharing it with permission:

Thank you for posting this explanation. A question to clarify a bit without having researched, and hoping you may know.

It says that it is Sheraton going to Marriott. Are they two separate entities or connected somehow?

What I'm getting at is are the previously employed workers ones employed by Sheraton and have no employment ties to Marriott. I only ask as my professional history involves that of two company closures, and subsequent layoff and rehire opportunities. I'm wondering how the decisions are being made here and to do so it seems important to understand the business connections / relationships. If the developer of the building is the same but isn't the employer than that piece of information seems irrelevant.

I wanted to make sure that my response was one hundred per cent accurate, so I reached out to PATH for clarification. The answer was even more complicated than I expected. I am printing it here, word for word, as it was given to me because I don’t want to muddy it’s meaning by attempting to paraphrase.

The Sheraton Columbia was bought by Costello’s LLC in 2017. It was never owned by Sheraton or Marriott and the workers have never been employed by Sheraton or Marriott. As is often the case, Costello’s LLC and the previous owners, contract with a management company to employ the workers. In this case that company is called Aimbridge. It is our experience that although they don’t employ the workers, owners often have the final say in economic and management decisions rather than the management company. In this case, Aimbridge has actually said to us that this is the case.

Owners who are not one of the big four chains ( Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental) often contract with one of the big four for the use of their name and access to their reservations and customer loyalty rewards programs. In this case, Marriott Int. bought Starwood ( the parent company of Sheraton) in 2018. Costello’s LLC has a contract agreement with Marriott to be part of their Autograph Collection. So essentially Costello’s LLC made an agreement with a different branch of the same company for naming/ branding rights, but neither the ownership of the hotel nor the employer of the workers has changed since before the pandemic began.

I hope that provides more useful information for those who are trying to piece this all together. In some ways it appears complicated. The core issue is simple. These workers should have been the first called back to their old jobs before management could make new hires. Period. 

Also: CB10, the bill being considered, is not addressed specifically to one property or employer. It codifies the rights of any hospitality workers who have been (or will be) laid off due to the pandemic.

A reminder about today’s PATH action:

Short Press Conference followed by COVID safe Doorknocking

Tuesday, Feb 1 4-6 pm

Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Rd, Columbia, MD 21044.

We will provide training in talking to neighbors, COVID safe protocols, materials, and KN95 masks for doorknockers, who will go in pairs. It's a great way to meet your neighbors and "pray with our feet" (as MLK taught us to do) by talking with people about how we can live out our values of equity and justice in Howard County. 

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