On March 17, Tilman Fertitta, billionaire owner of the Houston Rockets and multiple casinos, suspended paid time off and benefits for all hourly employees of his luxury Post Oak Hotel. In total, Fertitta furloughed 70 percent of his employees across all industries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the immediate criticism he received, Fertitta stated that “this is very hard on a lot of working families, but we have to survive or there is no company.” In reality, his daily profits are only off by 8 percent—in other words, he is only making $11 million a day, rather than $12 million. Lobbying groups for hotels and casinos and owners like Fertitta are using statistics like this to try and receive a multi-million dollar coronavirus bailout from the Trump administration.
Fertitta, who is the star of the CNBC show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” has a cutthroat attitude toward his workers. Reflecting on building profits in his businesses, he says, “If you don’t cut expenses then what can you cut? We’re not going to cut the quality of the product. You can only cut labor.”
Workers fight back!
After receiving a harsh notice letter outlining the cuts from the Post Oak Hotel, workers immediately demanded that PTO and benefits be restored. Due to massive blowback from workers and the public, Fertitta reversed his decision the next day. Benefits were restored for all non-furloughed workers, and pay will continue until June 30.
However, pay cuts and lower available hours are still affecting workers at the hotel. A hotel worker told Liberation News that while workers “expected our hours to be cut,” when they received their new schedules they “did not expect it to be so drastic, and for the hours to be cut so quickly.” Many former full-time workers are down to 19 hours or less a week, and layoffs are still a threat.
“The hours being cut down to essentially nothing have made me struggle to cover my bills, especially rent. I even filed for unemployment and had to seek out my previous job to be able to make ends meet.”
But workers knew that if they fought together, they would win. Post Oak Hotel workers and supporters started the hashtag #tilmanfertitta on Twitter, demanding PTO, benefits and reverses on pay and hour cuts.
Tilman Fertitta is insisting that if he does not make billions, his workers will suffer — “we have to survive or there is no company.” The reality is that the company would not exist without the workers. When we remember this, and fight together, we can win!