- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

Retail

Washington-area hotels did not expect many employees to ditch work today to participate in a boycott designed to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to the American economy.

The boycott, dubbed the “Day Without An Immigrant,” had lost some of its support from union and immigration leaders, who say the move is too drastic. Hotels and restaurants were poised to see the greatest effect, because they employ many immigrants.

Immigrants and illegal aliens have been encouraged to skip work and school today to show their effect on the economy and to influence the debate on illegal immigration.

“Our employees, I doubt they’re not going to show up,” said Emily Durso, president of the Hotel Association of Washington D.C.

Ms. Durso said few D.C. hotel operators told her that employees left work on April 10 to attend an immigration rally on the National Mall, leading her and hotel operators to think there will be few “no-shows” today.

“It’s not a major issue here in the District of Columbia,” Ms. Durso said. “In other jurisdictions, there are larger numbers of undocumented workers.”

Cities with large immigrant populations, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, expect high participation.

Ritz-Carlton hotels have suggested that their staffs request time off if they plan to participate in the event.

“We hope that they will come to work, but we’re also encouraging them to go through the proper requests to ask for the time off in advance to cover our staffing issues,” said Vivian Deuschl, a spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. LLC, which owns four Washington-area hotels.

Ritz-Carlton is owned by Marriott International Inc., whose chairman recently came out in favor of reform that protects businesses that hire illegal aliens.

“[I]f we don’t stand together and demand good, comprehensive immigration reform, we will be criminalized if we unknowingly employ undocumented, illegal aliens,” J.W. Marriott Jr. said at last month’s Global Travel & Tourism Summit of industry leaders in Washington. “In our hotels, we find we just can’t get the work done without workers from other nations.”

A Marriott spokesman said its hotels have accepted requests for paid time off.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents workers in health care, public services and building security and cleaning, is advising its members to attend work and school and participate in voting drives afterward.

“We believe that a boycott and a general strike are tools available to use, and we don’t want to take the idea off the table completely,” said Jaime Contreras, district chairman for SEIU Local 32BJ. “If necessary, you do those as a last resort.”

Lunch break

Sam & Harry’s steakhouse in the District is eliminating its lunch menu to focus on its dinner service.

“We have always done a fair amount of business at night for dinner service and a large majority in private dining,” said Molly McWhorter, director of sales and marketing. Sam & Harry’s “decided that would be our main focus, and we changed to reflect that.”

Ms. McWhorter said there was no drop in lunch sales to prompt the change at the restaurant, which is now open 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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