Speaking up for Le Méridien workers

I first read about the worker-called boycott of the Le Méridien Hotel in Cambridge in the recent article in the Cambridge Chronicle. I was very pleased to see the City Council coming out so strongly in favor of the workers. A few days later I read the article in The Tech by Sara L. Hess G in which Nate W. Nickerson (director of communications for MIT) is quoted as saying “MIT’s general practice is not to assess the business actions of other organizations.” Assuming this is an accurate representation of MIT’s position on this issue, I am quite disappointed and therefore driven to speak up.

I appreciate the desire to stay neutral on issues outside of one’s domain. However, when MIT is listing Le Méridien as a preferred vendor and is also leasing out the land to HEI Hotels, that tends to contradict the proposition of neutrality.

Therefore, seeing as part of MIT’s mission is to “… seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind,” and as a graduate student of this great Institute, I strongly urge those at MIT deciding the Institute’s stance on this issue to whole-heartedly reconsider joining the boycott (called by members of our community who should be treated similarly under our mission) of the Le Méridien Hotel until HEI:

(1) Agrees in writing to remain neutral during the process through which the workers decide whether or not to join the union.

(2) Demonstrates compliance with this agreement.

(3) honors the results of this process should the members decide to join the union.

I appreciate that the National Labor Relations Board exists to protect the workers in many of these instances. But with HEI’s history of profits-over-people and anti-union practices, I think it would be inappropriate and against MIT’s mission statement to claim (false) neutrality on this issue and abdicate any responsibility for the protection of fair labor practices on our land. So once again, I urge the relevant members of the MIT community to reconsider their stance on this issue.

Similarly, I encourage everyone in the MIT community to talk about this with your colleagues, your advisors, your student body representatives and your local staff members. Don’t forget that the leadership of MIT is beholden to all of you, but unless you let them know that they are on the wrong side of this issue, they have no reason to listen.

And to any of you workers at Le Méridien that might be reading this: thank you for your bravery in the face of possible retribution by coming together and standing up to HEI. I am with you. And I assure you that I am not alone.

Adam Neugebauer is a graduate student in architecture