As Boycott Continues, Beverly Hills Hotel Tries to Turn Focus to Employees

Beverly Hills Hotel protest Sultan of
David McNew/Getty Images

More than a month after the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel boycott was launched, a counter-campaign has been gaining visibility, making the argument that the action is merely hurting the workers.

But the groups that are pushing the boycott contend that the parent company of the hotel, the Dorchester Collection, is “using its employees as human shields in a desperate attempt to deflect criticism of the Sultan,” in the words of Jeff Krehely, VP and chief foundation officer of the Human Rights Campaign.

What is clear is that the boycott, which gained steam earlier this month when Jay Leno and others held a rally across the street from the fabled property, is having an impact. Once-bustling lunch business at the Polo Lounge has slowed to a trickle, while other hotels including the Four Seasons appear to have gained business.

The protest is over the Sultan of Brunei’s plans to implement Sharia law in his country, and is targeting hotels owned by the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. Others being boycotted include the Hotel Bel-Air.

The hotel has been taking to social media to make the point that the boycott is hurting employees. A Facebook page, We Are the Beverly Hills Hotel, asks the public to “Stand With Us,” while a YouTube video showcases the diversity of its workforce.

“We also respect the right of all Americans to protest,” the Facebook page says. “But we respectfully request that all those who are boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel review the facts and weigh the consequences and benefits of their actions.

“While the hotel has pledged to protect us by maintaining wages and making up for lost tips, the uncertainty of how long the boycott will last and the countless lost opportunities to work overtime or earn more tips significantly and negatively impacts us. At the end of the day, this boycott targets us, our families and our livelihood.”

The Facebook page has received almost 6,500 “likes.”

HRC, the Feminist Majority, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and GLAAD are among the organizations leading the boycott, and their campaign has already triggered the threat of legal action from the Beverly Hills Hotel.

After they ran ads in Variety titled “Don’t Sleep With the Sultan,” attorneys for the hotel sent a cease-and-desist letter to the groups as well as Variety, claiming that the hotel owned exclusive rights to the picture from Niall Clutton.

“The sole purpose of the letter was to inform the parties who purchased and published the advertisement that they were using our photograph without permission — the same sort of action that Variety’s lawyers routinely take to protect Variety’s intellectual property,” a spokeswoman for the Dorchester Collection said in an e-mail.

The groups have followed with another ad, this one titled “Shame on the Sultan” and accusing him of using employees as “human shields to deflect criticism,” which ran in the Hollywood Reporter.

“The fundamental truth is that profits from these hotels belong to a regime that could start executing women and LGBT people as soon as next year,” Krehely said in a statement.

As HRC continues to push the boycott — this week it highlighted Anna Wintour’s pledge not to stay at any of the hotels — the entertainment industry’s shunning of the property has not been universal. Russell Crowe recently said on Twitter that “throwing the staff of Dorchester Collection Hotels under the bus to make a political point is not acceptable to me. These are hard-working people with families and I guarantee you they come from all walks of life.”

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  1. John Spears says:

    Its good to see more people being made aware that this is a Union issue merely looking for Union due$. Why would a local hotel union Union advertise in Variety about the boycott? How about some investigative reporting Ted Johnson please?

    • Jason says:

      Don’t hold your breath waiting for any investigative reporting. Everyone is in bed together on this one.

  2. Andrew says:

    The boycott of this hotel will never hurt the nation of Brunei, which is the sixth richest nation in the world (oil money, of course) yet the size of Connecticut. It’s only hurting the employees of the hotel.

    As a gay man who has been a guest at the hotel, I know from experience how many gay people work there and how friendly the hotel management is to our community. They have openly advertised that they welcome gay weddings and before that they welcomed gay commitment ceremonies. They have donated time and money and facilities over the years to support gay causes.

    Muslim nations with Sharia law around the world own thousands of businesses of all sorts, including other hotels like the Four Seasons and Fairmont chains.

    The boycott of the gay-friendly Beverly Hills Hotel has been misguided from the get-go and just a hopeless publicity stunt. I say misguided because the boycott wasn’t even begun over Sharia law or gay anything, it was begun by a labor group upset that the hotel hired some non-union workers on a renovation job. The boycott didn’t go anywhere until the Sharia law issue came up, so they latched onto that and are using that to club the hotel into submission.

  3. Hi mom says:

    I hope no one is buying any shell gasoline for their cars, limos, boat and yachts.

  4. Neil Klein says:

    I’ll not worry about a few employees when thousands of people suffer under Sharia law. Shut down that garbage Hotel.

  5. Aysegul says:

    I hope this simple truth opens your eyes a bit Sir!
    LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia are unrecognized. Homosexuality is frequently a taboo subject in Saudi Arabian society and is punished with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, torture, capital punishment, and chemical castrations. Transgenderism is generally associated with homosexuality. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Co. (KINGDOM), who took a 95 percent stake in the Four Seasons chain with Bill Gates. Maybe we should think a bit further while we are at it. Oh before I forget Prince also holds a large stake at Fairmont group. I think we need to take this whole thing with a grain of salt or we end up boycotting every single Luxury group or maybe even Microsoft. I say reduce your dependability on foreign oil. It is the only way to hit these guys where it hurts. Imagine all LGBT community stopped driving worldwide for one day a week for the next year. That will show them. Not boycotting an American Icon, Beverly Hills hotel where quite a bit of the staff are gay!

  6. Thomas Tucker says:

    This is BS reporting. I was just there at the BHH and it was very busy!

  7. Robert Yaffe says:

    Russell Crowe

    I think you need to do a retraction .Read this from the article it self

    “While the hotel has pledged to protect us by maintaining wages and making up for lost tips, the uncertainty of how long the boycott will last and the countless lost opportunities to work overtime or earn more tips significantly and negatively impacts us. At the end of the day, this boycott targets us, our families and our livelihood.”

    So Russell Crowe and anyone else thinking about crossing the line .THEY ARE GETTING THIER PAY AND TIPS FROM THE SULTAN.NO LOSS TO THE EMPLOYEE’S.

  8. mattheww says:

    A lot of lunch counter workers in Greensboro took a hit on tips during the civil rights movement too; it happens, and in some senses is too bad. Still, one ought to go to work at a whites-only diner or for the Sultan of Brunei with the understanding that there may be consequences.

    • Brie andersen says:

      Brie Anderson
      there is no way around it…everyone in the world uses products and/or services from countries that obey different forms of Sharia Law. Read to understand some of the companies…very interesting. The sultan owns his hotels for prestige, not profit. In fact the Four Seasons Hotels are owned by the Al Waleed, a Prince of Saudi Arabia! The hotels are less than 1% of the sultans wealth. here are some more facts that i would like for hollywood and other protestors to understand: 1.) The UAE has Sharia Law and owns US$7Billion in Citigroup. Are we boycotting them to send a message to the United Arab Emirates? If not, does that mean we approve Sharia Law there? 2.) 750 US companies do business in the UAE-read about it 3.) USA exports $14Billion a year to the UAE supporting their economy and ours 4.) Walmart does business in Saudi Arabia, another Sharia Law country 5.) Beverly Hills has invested it’s city employees, including teachers, in Iranian companies-you must research this. fascinating. 6.) Cheesecake factory started in Beverly hills. They are opening 24 restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon but Americans aren’t protesting cheesecake. 7.) How about McDonalds doing business in China with 400 stores 8.) Egyptian cotton on every celebrity’s bed from Egypt, a non human rights supportive country 9.) Kuwait-al shaya group—-brands currently managed and operated by the company include Mothercare, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, Payless ShoeSource, Topshop, Starbucks, Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory, Pinkberry, P. F. Chang’s, Le Pain Quotidien, The Body Shop, Make-up Art Cosmetics (MAC), Victoria’s Secret, Boots, Vision Express, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Office Depot and KidZania Kuwait. Did you know that? 10.) Samsung, the phone that Ellen used to take a selfie at the Oscars is opening a factory in Egypt but she does not care 11.) Warner Brothers just made a deal with the UAE to shoot movies and sell them there 12.) Valentino which many people wear is now owned exclusively by Qatar 13.) Saudi Prince Alwaleed owns $300 million in Twitter-the same app everyone is using to complain about these hotels 14.) Qatar sovereign wealth fund had 20% investment in Porsche, Audi ands Bentley-cars owned by most celebrities and the affluent 15.) Prince Alwaleed of Saudi is 3rd largest holder in news corp; 2nd behind Rupert Murdoch. News corp has the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Vogue. A second company which is part of News Corp has 21st Century Fox, oversees movies and TV programming, including the Fox News Channel. Before you believe a celebrity for making a huge scene, do your research first. These hypocrite celebrities and affluent people are in affect protesting American workers which is terrible. 79 countries in the world with Sharia-nothing will change it as it is political and religious-2 of the most powerful powers around.

  9. NONO says:

    Yes, let’s have innocent, decent employees who have been nothing but excellent to all guests they’ve encountered, laid off or fired.. That will show the sultan!

    • thomas tucker says:

      Well said! The staff at the hotel are excellent and should not be made to suffer from this hypocritical, futile boycott. If you want to make Brunei change its laws, lobby the US and European governments to exert pressure on Brunei. Damaging the Beverly Hills Hotel and its staff is not helpful.

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