Workers accuse the Marshall Hotel of wage theft, other labor problems

By Ya Zhou

Workers and tenants of the Marshall Hotel rallied recently outside the single-room occupancy hotel, accusing the owners of wage theft and improper personnel policies.

Joined by other supporters, including members of Arise Chicago, a nonprofit that works on wage theft and labor issues, the group demonstrated in heavy snow outside the SRO on the Near North Side, shouting “Fair Wages” and carrying banners saying “Stop Wage Theft at Marshall Hotel.”

William David Johnson, 64, a current worker and tenant of the Marshall Hotel, said the owners have been stealing wages from him for years. “They are not gonna leave this hotel, try to sell it and walk away with my money,” said Johnson.

The Dolins family, the owners of the Marshall Hotel, also own the Carling Hotel and the Darlington Hotel. Earlier this year, the owners announced they would sell the three SRO hotels.

A spokesperson for LOMA Management, the company that operates Marshall Hotel, did not return several phone calls for comment.

Johnson is currently a maintenance engineer and tenant at the Marshall Hotel and accused them of failing to pay him for vacation and sick days. Before coming to Marshall, he worked at the Carling Hotel for 13 years.

“Last payroll [period], I worked for 75 hours and they only paid me for 70 hours. What happened to the five hours?” Johnson said. “The hours do not match my time card.  This is the type of thing that has been going on for years.”

Johnson also accused the management company of changing information on his payroll forms and not keeping a personnel file for him. As a result, he said, he couldn’t challenge the payroll problems.

Besides the issues Johnson described, the Marshall Hotel workers also alleged other payment problems, such as unpaid overtime hours and working off the clock.

Nicole Bell, a former worker and current tenant of the Marshall Hotel, said she received an eviction notice in retaliation for reaching out for help.

“There were some wage issues we were having. We banded together with Arise to solve the problems. After Arise started to contact the hotel, they [the hotel] gave me a 5-day eviction notice,” said Bell. “They are trying to retaliate against me and scare me to basically just be quiet.”

Bell, Johnson and Edger Bartres formed the N.E.W Era committee to denounce the labor problems.

Katie Poplawski, a workplace justice organizer at Arise Chicago, also joined the protest. She said the workers and Arise Chicago have been working on the Marshall Hotel problem for three to four months. The workers are asking for a total of about $25,000 in unpaid wages, she said.

The protesters pasted a flyer, targeted to the Dolins family and LOMA Management, outside the door of the manager’s office. The flyer cited their demands for resolving the labor problems.

“I really want them to come out and talk to us, which I know they wouldn’t, but I will wake them up,” Johnson said. “This is for real. You are not gonna sit here and do the thing you are doing and think you are going to get away with it.”

Photo at top: Workers and tenants demonstrated outside the Marshall Hotel in heavy snow. (Ya Zhou/MEDILL)