Chinese Hotel Workers Still Fuming Over English-Only Remark

Eugenia Chien, New California Media, Aug. 23

SAN FRANCISCO—Hotel housekeepers at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental say they have not received a satisfactory response after they complained in July that a manager forbid them from speaking Cantonese at work. Local union representatives have been negotiating with hotel management since July 22 and are waiting for the hotel’s investigation of the incident.

“We are demanding a clear, unequivocal apology, posted in the hotel for all the workers to see,” says Anand Singh, representative from San Francisco’s Local 2 union. “The hotel needs to take action to demonstrate that this will never happen again.”

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According to five housekeepers at the hotel, they were chatting in Cantonese on the morning of July 1 before their shift began. Their manager then told them that they cannot speak Cantonese at work.

The housekeepers allege that the manager, Maria Campbell, said, “Don’t speak Chinese. Speak English. Be polite.”

“We were really taken back,” says Mei Lan, a room cleaner who has worked at the hotel for more than eight years. “At first, we were so shocked that we just didn’t say anything to her.”

But other English-speaking employees at the scene encouraged the housekeepers to complain to the union and the hotel.

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Local union representatives have brought the case to the EEOC, the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission and the San Francisco Human Rights commission.

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Although the hotel does not have an official English-only policy, it can still be sued because it is responsible for the actions of its manager or supervisors, says Joannie Chang, director of employment and labor projects at the Asian Law Caucus.

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