Twenty-two former Hotel Metropolis employees filed complaints last week with the National Labor Relations Board against their former employer and their union.
The former employees say hotel management broke their union contract by shutting down abruptly without notice, and that the union itself, Unite Here Local 2, has failed to communicate and represent them properly throughout the termination process.
Hotel Metropolis closed its doors on January 31 after being sold to 25 Mason, LLC. Workers received an abrupt three-day notice of termination, which violated a contract requirement that they receive 90-day notice for any sale or closure of the business according to the employees.
The short notice felt like a calculated move to obfuscate the long term plan to turn the hotel’s parking lot into a 12-story residential building with 155 units and the hotel itself into student housing, according to Allan Paisley, former hotel employee.
The project to transform the Hotel Metropolis parking lot into housing was approved by the Planning Commission in 2015. A construction permit was issued at the end of 2018, according to City records.
Nevertheless, hotel employees were only notified of the plans to turn the hotel into housing in a letter sent out January 31, the day the hotel closed.
The former management of Hotel Metropolis, Haiyi Hotel Management, have not returned multiple calls and messages seeking comment on their workers grievances.
For some former employees, the closure has been devastating. Ana Ramirez, a housekeeper who worked with the company for 27 years, says she felt saddened, angry and frustrated at the hotel for treating her this way.
“I’m a single mom, and it’s hard to lose a job suddenly,” she said.
Furthermore, the former employees have yet to receive their severance package from the hotel, while non-union employees received theirs Feb. 1.
The severance package, which needs to be negotiated by Local 2 with the new owners, appears to be stalled due to difficulties with contacting them, according to Abdallah Jammal, who worked at Hotel Metropolis for ten years.
“We don’t see anything going on, all we hear is that they are having troubles meeting with them,” he said. “They should be working for us, but they (Local 2) don’t do anything.”
Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2, said he sympathizes with the frustration of the workers.
“It’s ridiculous that companies think they can come into San Francisco and throw workers out on the street, and Local 2 is committed to holding the hotel accountable,” he said.
Singh confirmed that the first scheduled meeting with the new owners of the hotel property to negotiate a severance package was cancelled in early February and they have yet to confirm a date to reschedule.
However, the former hotel workers felt that their representative Jose Lee failed to communicate with them or respond to calls consistently, according to Jammal.
Paisley said he had placed a call to Lee once a week since the end of January and has received one message left on his voicemail inbox 12 days after his first call, along with one conversation over the phone with Lee the following week.
“Each time he said the same thing, ‘I don’t know anything,’” said Paisley. “He (Lee) says he didn’t have any information on the company that bought the property or information on the next meeting.”
Paisley said that within two days of receiving the termination notice he pulled public records to determine who the new owners were and passed the information along to Lee.
Lee did not respond to attempts by the Examiner to contact him for a comment.
Frustrated at the lack of progress, the former workers marched into the union offices Monday and demanded to speak to Lee. While they were unable to see him, an official promised they would be contacted with an update by the end of this week and have a meeting scheduled the following week to discuss next steps with Singh.
The National Labor Relations Board will launch an investigation into the former workers claims against the former owners and the union to verify the validity of the complaints before advising the workers on any course of action. Typically a decision is made within seven to 14 weeks after a complaint is filed, according to the board’s website.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to include the correct name of the company that purchased the hotel and further clarifying details about the nature of the planned residential project on the site.