The Starting Line — Reporter Assaulted by Goons at Mission Valley Hilton Press Conference Exposing Mistreatment of Employees

San Diego Reader Photo by Dave Rice

Mission Valley mayhem… A press conference being held yesterday by the Employee Rights Center  to air charges that the hotel’s operator, Connecticut-based HEI Hospitality, had been named in a complaint alleging wage theft totaling approximately $250,000, was disrupted by loud music apparently at the direction of hotel management.

Reporter Dave Rice, whose account of the incident is online at the SDReader, found the source of the noise behind a hedge over a hundred feet from the presser.  Photographs published with the story clearly demonstrate the Hotel’s involvement:

When I walked around the corner to ascertain the source of the music, I found two men next to a limousine with large speakers aimed at the crowd and a power cord leading back toward the hotel. As I snapped a photo with my phone, three other men wearing business suits who had been standing near the building entrance quickly approached.

I was grabbed by the arms by two of the men, one of whom tried to wrench my phone from my hand and throw it to the ground. The third appeared to be filming the incident on a phone camera. After a brief struggle and explanation that I intended to resist their efforts to destroy my property, one released me and I broke the grip of the other. 

Rabbi Laurie Coskey, representing the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, closed out the program.

“Before I can bring the support of the faith community to the workers at this hotel, I need to witness [situations such as] we are experiencing at this very moment,” Coskey said over the din coming from the Hilton lot.

“The music is amplified so that we don’t hear the voices of the people who work here, and it has been our experience that we have made several delegations to this very management, who have also amplified their deafness in order not to hear the pleas of the people who work here.”

Following publication of yesterdays’ story here (at about 8 am)about the abusive practices of HEI/Hilton towards their employees, we at SDFP observed frequent visits to our website by corporate officials from both companies, a clear indication that they were aware of the impending press conference.

The mid-day media event put a human face on allegations that the company violated California’s labor laws by not paying workers fully for their hours worked and repeatedly denying breaks and rest periods, with a hotel housekeeper and restaurant employee braving the obvious attempts at intimidation to tell their story. The tactic of blaring loud music was being used to make any video or audio footage of the press conference unsuitable for airing.    

Convention Fever swept the nations news media out of its collective comfort zone feet yesterday as the woman in red, aka Ann Romney, took to the podium in Tampa to tell the nation about the softer side of her husband, GOP nominee Mitt Romney.  Her speech worked as planned, generating thundering applause at a Republican Convention truncated by the threat of a hurricane and divided by brutal efforts to impose unanimity as the roll call vote neared. It was the feel good moment in a day marked by partisan oratory aimed at convincing voters that this party platform and this nominee would rescue the nation from the “others”, the “outsiders” and, most of all, the black man with the funny name who had somehow ascended to the presidency.

Hurricane Isaac’s impact on the GOP confab translated into a long day for delegates, one that would start in the morning and continue late into the night.  San Diego attendee Mike Cully reported on the rough start for the California delegation via SDRostra:

It became obvious fairly quickly that just getting to the forum would be a problem, however. Citing “serious delays,” RNC organizers found that the unionized buses were not operating as expected, leaving the delegation standing in the lobby of the hotel. By 1:30, only one bus had arrived and transported 50 of the 300+ waiting to go.

Word circulated that protesters may have caused some of the delays…union regulations causing the rest.

Organizers say Speaker Boehner was detoured five times this morning on his way to the breakfast here in St. Petersburg. We understand these protesters are also wreaking havoc on delegation efforts to get to the forum.

At this writing, still 2/3rds of the California delegation is waiting to board a bus for the 40-minute trip to the forum. With any luck, we’ll be there for the evening session.

Tuesday’s tasks at the convention centered on putting into place new rules that would give party elites more power over delegate selection, moves designed to insure that future nominating processes would not sullied by insurgent movements like the Ron Paul campaign.  Things came to a head as the Paul supporters saw their efforts to have their delegates seated steamrolled by a party leadership bound and determined to garner a  unanimous vote for Romney’s nomination later in the day. From Buzzfeed:

A shouting match erupted on the floor of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday afternoon as Chairman Reince Priebus called for a vote to unseat several Ron Paul delegates.

The boos disrupted the speech of Puerto Rico National Committeewoman Zori Fonalledas, who was set to announce the nomination of Speaker of the House John Boehner as permanent convention chairman.

Priebus repeatedly called on the crowd to silence themselves, as dozens of men wearing earpieces converged on the shouting Paul supporters — some delegates, and even more expressing their displeasure from the arena’s upper decks.

As Boehner moved to the report from the Committee on Rules and Order of Business, Paul supporters began shouting “Point of Order,” calling on the chair to recognize them for a motion. Boehner shouted over them, as other delegates tried to drown them out with chants of “U-S-A.”

With the rabble defeated,  the convo moved on to the business at hand. The adjective “presumptive” was duly removed from in front of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s candidacies, and the door was opened for the partisan pounding that Grand Old Party had in place leading up the “softer side of Mitt” speech.  From Esquire:

It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie because it was an entire evening based on rejecting — publicly and dishonestly, and without caring that the facts of your own biographies give the lie to the words you’re saying — the idea of a general political commonwealth as expressed through the national government, which has been the great engine behind the expansion of the country’s size, the country’s wealth, and, yes, the country’s freedom. It was a purchase in that political commonwealth, and not in a loose confederation of states, that King sought, and that Lyndon sought to give the country’s poorest citizens, including the vote, which the government of John Kasich in Ohio is presently working assiduously to roll back.

It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie, and it was topped off by a demonstrable liar named Chris Christie, who talked about how the president can’t lead, and that nobody wants to tell the Americans the truth of the sacrifices we have to share, and talked about “politicians who pander” at a convention that is preparing to nominate Willard Romney, which was the final hilarious lie of the night, since Romney hasn’t stopped pandering since he walked down the steps of the Massachusetts State House in 2006.

Bigotry on patrol… The one ‘media incident’ of the day occurred when a delegate was ejected from the Convention floor as reported in the Tweet below. CNN has confirmed that an incident took place and refused further comment.

David Shuster @DavidShuster

GOP attendee ejected for throwing nuts at African American CNN camera woman + saying “This is how we feed animals.”@takeactionnews #TAN

Here’s a 100 second video recap of the convention for those of you who like their news speeded up:

Meanwhile, outside the protective bubble of the barbed wire and the walls of ideological purity surrounding the Tampa Bay Forum, the realities of the campaign and of everyday life for Americans continued.

Mysterious allegations instigate call for protests…San Diego School Board trustee Sheila Jackson is calling for the community to protest the decision by district officials to place deputy superintendent Brenda Campbell on leave while unspecified allegations against her are investigated. NBC7 reports that a huge crowd is expected at the next SDUSD board meeting on September 4th to protest the move.  Jackson said Brenda Campbell, who oversees schools in Area 1, was the victim of a “questionable allegation,” but was not specific.  Ooookay…

Gag in the bag reboot denied… The SD Reader reports that the San Diego Planning Commission has voted to deny plans by Jack in the Box to demolish and rebuild their location at 30th & Upas Street in North Park.  The plan was opposed by the North Park Planning Committee, North Park Mainstreet and The North Park Residential Improvement District.  Issues raised by those in opposition centered on disruptive traffic patterns and introducing more commercial vehicles into nearby residential areas.

Tweet of the Day:

Butch Hussein Rosser (@ButchCorp)
There has to be something more awkward and white than Republicans dancing. Oh, wait. No, there doesn’t.

On This Day…  In 1833 the “Factory Act” was passed in England to settle child labor laws.  In 1886 Chinese Ambassador Li Hung-chang’s chef invented chop suey. In 1977 three people were arrested in Memphis after trying to steal Elvis’ body. As a result, his body was moved to Graceland.

Eat Fresh!  Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Carlsbad (Roosevelt St. btw Grand Ave. & Carlsbad Village Dr.) 1 – 5 pm, Encinitas Station (Corner of E Street & Vulcan in parking lot B) 5 – 8 pm, Mission Hills  (Falcon St. btw West Washington & Ft. Stockton) 3 – 7 pm, North San Diego at Sikes Adobe Farmstead  (I-15 at Via Rancho Parkway. 12655 Sunset Dr., Escondido.) 11 am – 2 pm, Ocean Beach  (4900 block of Newport Ave. btw Cable & Bacon Sts.) 4 – 8 pm, San Marcos – Cal State San Marcos  (333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd., Parking Lot B) 3 – 7 pm,Santee  (10445 Mission Gorge Rd. abandoned school parking lot) 3 –7 pm, Temecula (40820 Winchester Rd. Promenade Mall, parking lot btw Macy’s & Penny’s) 9 am – 1 pm

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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  1. avatarJEC says

    Hilton – how will this help your brand? The image of thugs in suits looks like a hotel run by the mob. Theft of wages is a criminal offense – I didn’t see DA Dumanis mentioned. Is she out of town again?

  2. avatarNadin says

    We were there, and even have photos of the speaker. Personnel at the hotel were not too happy this was taken.

    Some matters about HCI, they are not part of Hilton, they rent or buy the franchise. The hotel used to be a double tree. According to one of the employees, for the last seven years, they have fired people, and increased the work load of employees, while lowering their hours. In other words, they are reducing “expenses.”

    The Company also has a second facility in La Jolla and if you think this behavior is limited, nope, not at all.

    I sent both photos (even of the speaker) and of the event…

    As to the DA, nope, the complaints were filed with the CALIFORNIA LABOR COMMISSION, not with the DA. The company also released a partial list of documents to the lawyers, but not all of it, and so far are refusing to negotiate.

    This is essentially the bare bones of what we observed and found out yesterday. Oh and Channel 17 was present to cover this as well, and the on duty manager gave us the wrong number for corporate, since you all should know this was ordered by corporate.