WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Dozens of hospitality workers picketed at the Wharf Wednesday, accusing a major hotel chain of “union busting.”
“The workers are angry, the workers are dedicated and the workers are going to win. There will be a union at this location,” said Paul Schwalb, Secretary-Treasurer for hospitality union Unite Here Local 25.
The protest was in defiance of the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf’s decision to close Moon Rabbit, a Vietnamese restaurant at the hotel. Hotel leadership made the announcement Monday. It came three weeks after Local 25 filed union election paperwork for food and beverage workers at the hotel.
Those hotel employees staff the restaurant.
“I was confused, I was angry. I know people have families to feed, bills to pay and at this point our future is uncertain,” said Michael Cruz, a hotel employee who has worked as a server at Moon Rabbit for the last two years.
Cruz joined the picket line Wednesday.
“Moon Rabbit restaurant is the largest department in the hotel. It was really an attempt to intimidate us, to scare us,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence, it’s an intimidation technique.”
Schwalb said about 90 food and beverage workers at the hotel filed for the union election.
“The hotel has done nothing but fight them in ways we believe to be illegal. And most recently they closed the restaurant where most of them work,” said Schwalb.
He said unionization is necessary.
“They want the benefits of a union contract,” he said. “The workers have always been concerned, the front of the house workers in particular, that the boss is playing around with their tips. There’s no transparency with how the tips are being given out.”
Karen Cole, a spokesperson for IHG Hotel and Resorts, said the decision to part ways with Moon Rabbit Chef Kevin Tien “was in no way impacted by the union’s ongoing efforts to unionize the hotel.”
And, that the hotel “wishes Chef Tien much continued success in his future endeavors.”
In a statement, Chief Tien said, “I am so grateful for the last two and a half years where my team and I were able to make my dream of Moon Rabbit into a reality. I’ve grown tremendously as a leader here and learned so many valuable lessons that I will take with me throughout my career. I’m thankful for my partnership with InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf who allowed me to run with my dream of sharing contemporary Vietnamese cuisine with the world. I ultimately wanted to offer Moon Rabbit as a standalone concept and look forward to continuing to share Moon Rabbit with diners.”
Employees plan to picket again Thursday morning.
“We loved working here, we love the Wharf. We want this to be a career job,” said Cruz.