First it was no paychecks. Now workers at what used to be the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center in Cedar Rapids are facing the possibility of no Christmas for their children.
“There’s some people who haven’t been paid in going on a month and a half,” Ted Canfield, who works in the maintenance department of the hotel on 33rd Ave SW, told Little Village. A number of other hotel workers have posted the same online.
Last month, it was announced that the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor has opened an investigation into reports that the hotel had failed to pay its workers. Canfield has also contacted Sen. Joni Ernst’s office about the situation, and said he’s been told they will look into it.
Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion brand, conducted its own investigation into how the Cedar Rapids hotel is being run, and last month it terminated its relationship with HRDMM Hospitality Services, Inc., the Virginia-based company that purchased the hotel earlier this year. The hotel no longer has the legal right to use the Clarion name, and employees have been instructed refer to the property as the Hotel and Convention Center of Cedar Rapids, Canfield said.
“Almost everybody missed Thanksgiving because [they weren’t paid on time],” Canfield said. “And even if everybody got checks for all they’ve worked, there are families here with young kids and there’s no way they’ll be able to afford Christmas, because of how far they are behind on their bills and rent right now.”
Canfield and some other hotel employees have started a toy drive to try to make sure families with kids will be able to celebrate Christmas this year.
“What we’re looking for is toys for kids, from babies to age 15,” Canfield said. “Or gift cards. Food items would be welcome, too, because a lot of them won’t have a Christmas dinner.”
Three Cedar Rapids businesses have agreed to serve as drop-off locations: Just Coz Tavern, 402 6th St SW; Skin Worthy Tattoo, 1601 6th St SW; and Air Filter Sales and Services, 210 33rd St Dr SE.
“I’m 47, and my son is grown, so that doesn’t really affect me,” Canfield said. “But I’ve always felt like you put in an honest day’s work, you should get an honest day’s pay.”
Responding to the announcement of the Labor Deptartment investigation in November, Hassan Hussein, managing director of HRDMM, told The Gazette via email that everyone had been paid, and any delays in issuing checks had been caused by confusion over which checking account was supposed to be used for paychecks. Hussein claimed that only “disgruntled employees” were complaining about not being paid.
Hussein’s statement was published in The Gazette one day before Choice Hotels announced it was ending it relationship with HRDMM.
The signs identifying the Cedar Rapids property as a Clarion Hotel are still in place. “The name’s still there, but they said to keep the lights turned off on the signs,” Canfield said.
Little Village was unsuccessful in its attempt to contact HRDMM for comment on what is happening at the Cedar Rapids property, which is the only hotel HRDMM operates.
In one of his November emails to The Gazette, Hussein said, “I know employees can get upset as the holidays are around the corner, I will be personally giving a holiday bonus to each employee right before Christmas.”
Canfield said he has a hard time believing that promise.
“We’ll have paychecks here for you on Tuesday, they’ve said before. Then it’s the paychecks will be here on Thursday. Then Friday. Then it’s next week,” he said. “There are 45 families waiting. I just hope this we can help them have some kind of Christmas this year.”