Providence College students and faculty plan to leaflet campus tomorrow to draw attention to the school’s continued relationship with the Renaissance Hotel, one of the downtown hotels engaged in a bitter labor dispute with employees trying to unionize and win better wages.
“Consistent with our social values, the group wants PC to refrain from doing business with the Renaissance Hotel until management grants workers a fair process to decide on unionization,” said a press release from PC sociology professor Cedric de Leon. “This means removing the Renaissance from the list of discounted hotels advertised on the PC website for Reunion Weekend, May 29-31, and telling alums why.”
de Leon has led an effort at the Providence College to stop doing business with the hotel because owner The Procaccianti Group “has a track record of mistreating Renaissance workers in a manner inconsistent with Catholic social teaching,” said the press release. “In 2007, U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote, ‘Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal.'”
In a subsequent interview, de Leon said, “We’re going to turn up the heat on the administration.” It’s unjust that Providence College boycotts sweatshop labor abroad but endorses poor labor relations in its host city, he said. “We won’t sell sweat shop clothing but the Renaissance Hotel is, for some reason sacred.”
Last year more than 200 faculty and students signed a letter expressing their desire to not do business with the Renaissance Hotel, but school administration declined to act upon the request, de Leon said.
Not only will the group leaflet campus on Wednesday, but they also plan on asking Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a liberation theologist, about PC’s support of a hotel mired in a labor dispute with employees when he visits campus on Monday to receive an honorary degree.
A Providence College press release describes Gutiérrez: “A native of Peru, he is best known for his 1971 book, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, which advocated for supporting the poor in protests against poverty and in attempts to be liberated from exploitation.” The Economist describes liberation theology as “an ideological movement that emerged in Latin America in the 1970s and sought to combine Catholicism with revolutionary socialism.”
Here’s the full press release from de Leon:
What: Leafleting urging Providence College (PC) to boycott the Renaissance Hotel
Who: Concerned students and faculty at PC
When: Wednesday, April 22, 12:30pm
Where: Starts at Harkins Hall (Main Entrance)
Why: Anti-worker practices by Renaissance Hotel
On Wednesday, April 22 at 12:30pm, students and faculty at Providence College will leaflet four major stops on the visitor tour circuit: Harkins Hall (the main administration building), Phillips Memorial Library, Raymond Hall (the main dining hall), and Slavin (the student center).
PC continues to do business with the Renaissance Hotel even though the hotel’s owner, The Procaccianti Group (TPG), has a track record of mistreating Renaissance workers in a manner inconsistent with Catholic social teaching. In 2007, U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote, “Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal.”
TPG, however, has been the subject of two federal enforcement actions at the Renaissance in the past two years: first, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for unsafe working conditions; and second, by the National Labor Relations Board, for workplace intimidation.
On March 26, 2013, a majority of Renaissance workers presented the hotel manager with a petition requesting a fair process to decide on unionization. Instead of granting workers a fair process, TPG has responded with an aggressive and illegal anti-union campaign, involving what the federal government itself has called “interrogating employees about their union activities.”
Despite all this, the administration has resisted joining the boycott. When Renaissance workers came to PC, asking to suspend business with the hotel, the administration had them escorted off campus. Later, when PC students and faculty presented administration with 200+ signatures urging the College to boycott the hotel, they said there was “no compelling interest for Providence College to advise the families of our students and our alumni to avoid using the hotel.”
Consistent with our social values, the group wants PC to refrain from doing business with the Renaissance Hotel until management grants workers a fair process to decide on unionization. This means removing the Renaissance from the list of discounted hotels advertised on the PC website for Reunion Weekend, May 29-31, and telling alums why. Brown University and other organizations have already taken this principled step.
The group is also asking those concerned to email President Fr. Brian Shanley at email@example.com to say that there are plenty of Providence hotels for our alumni to choose from and that the Renaissance should not be one of them.