Tempe hotel workers are picketing their employer, and guests are checking out in solidarity

hotel union

Workers and supporters picket in front of Tempe Mission Palms hotel on Friday, February 16, 2024. Photo by Sam Ellefson.

By Sam Ellefson

February 28, 2024

As the sun rose over the Valley on Friday, February 16, nearly two dozen people picketed outside the Hyatt Tempe Mission Palms to protest the hotel’s firing of one of its employees.

Workers have been picketing nearly every weekday morning for the past month after David Borg, a Tempe Mission Palms employee who told The Copper Courier he’d worked at the hotel for over a year, was suspended at the end of January.

Met with hostility by supervisor

Borg said he was attempting to discuss with a supervisor her behavior and treatment of workers — whom multiple Mission Palms employees described as someone who created a hostile working environment —  when he was escorted from the supervisor’s office by a security guard. Borg said he was then suspended without pay, pending an investigation into his actions.

“There were so many ways to resolve this, but the company chose to suspend me, and only me,” Borg said. “This company says we’re like family, we should be treated like family.” Borg added that he was fired on Valentine’s Day following the internal investigation.


A pattern of disrespect

Yolanda Hernandez, a longtime employee of the hotel and member of the union’s executive board, has worked at Tempe Mission Palms for over three decades. She said the supervisor Borg tried to speak with “has been the type of person who’s always had problems with the housekeeping department” by creating what she described as a dysfunctional work environment.

Magdalena Mares, another Tempe Mission Palms employee who was walking the picket line, said the disrespect and rudeness from supervisors is a pattern that’s been ongoing for a long time.

“This is not a thing that has just been happening today or yesterday, it’s been happening for years,” Mares said. “We do the work the best that we can. They don’t understand that without us they don’t have a hotel. We are the principal asset that allows them to get a paycheck.”

Hotel employees, guests, offer solidarity

After hotel employees won union representation in 2015 after conducting a hunger strike to protest poor working conditions, Hernandez said workers have been more open to fighting for better protections and pay. She said workers have rallied around Borg since his suspension and subsequent termination.

“We know our rights, and we’re going to fight for what we deserve,” Hernandez said.

Some of the guests staying at Tempe Mission Palms have also shown support for the workers on the picket line, according to Rachele Smith, a communications organizer for UNITE HERE Local 11. Smith said some guests have checked out of the hotel after learning about the ongoing picket.

Hotel’s actions seen as retaliatory

UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents the hotel employees, filed an unfair labor practice charge — which was provided to The Copper Courier — with the National Labor Relations Board after Borg’s suspension. The union claims the hotel retaliated against employees for protected union activity, called the police on Borg following a ULP strike earlier this month, and failed to bargain with the union in good faith.

“Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best,” Eric Sather, general manager of Tempe Mission Palms, said in a written statement to The Copper Courier. “Our colleagues are the heart of our business, and their safety and wellbeing are always a top priority. We have a long history of cooperation with the union that represents our colleagues, UNITE HERE Local 11. We respect our colleagues’ rights to voice their opinions.”

But the hotel’s labor woes go beyond firing Borg. Workers at the hotel are in a contract dispute right now after their previous contract expired in June 2023, Smith said. She said employees want to see raises, pension increases, and a commitment to workplace respect ensured by a future contract.


  • Sam Ellefson

    Sam Ellefson is the labor reporter for the Copper Courier. He's pursuing a master's degree in investigative journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and works as a research and communications aide for the Center for Work and Democracy at ASU. He's worked as a research aide at the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, as a reporter for the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, and as the editor of State Press Magazine.



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