I Work At The Beverly Hills Hotel: Inside the Boycott

Beverly-Hill-Hotel

Server At The Polo Lounge Shares Her Side of The Beverly Hills Hotel Boycott

What does it feel like when one’s dream job is in a nightmare position? I’ve been finding out over the past few weeks. You see, I work at The Beverly Hills Hotel as a server in The Polo Lounge, the legendary restaurant in the iconic 102 year-old hotel. It has been my home for seventeen years, and for the first time in my tenure there our outlook is precarious.

As a lover of old movies since I was a child growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I dreamt of what Hollywood must be like. I imagined bullhorns and soundstages, movie stars in glamorous dress sipping champagne and smoking cigarettes, and I imagined The Beverly Hills Hotel. I never imagined I might work at The Polo Lounge. I never imagined that I even could. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t suppose the stars I’d meet or the heads of state I’d greet. I certainly never imagined that I’d be paid so well to do all of these, and that the benefits I’d get – fringe and otherwise – would be so spectacular.

Beverly-Hills-Hotel-Polo-Lounge

So what happened?

If you haven’t yet heard of the boycott that’s been the subject of news reports from CNN to Time Magazine, it’s about The Sultan of Brunei whose sovereign investment fund, Brunei Investments owns the Dorchester Collection, a group of luxury hotels around the world of which The Beverly Hills Hotel is one.

More particularly, it’s about the Sultan’s enactment of Sharia law in the coming months. This is not good news for women, homosexuals, common thieves or non-practicing Muslims in that country. Punishments including death by stoning, flogging and amputations are a possibility as these laws go into effect.

The Sultan, ruler of his tiny oil-rich sovereign nation (the fifth wealthiest in the world) on the island of Borneo, joins other nations such as The UAE and Saudi Arabia who already have Sharia Law on the books.

Hard to comprehend, right? Of course it is. But then again, so is the boycott.

Hollywood and much of the LGBT community has sent a resounding message against stoning homosexuals by pulling events and refusing to patronize The Beverly Hills Hotel. Expenses at the hotel are currently not being honored by many of the top talent agencies, studios and production companies. Stars are cautioned against being seen there. The city of Beverly Hills has called for the Sultan to divest.

Beverly-Hill-Hotel-1

How does this affect the Sultan and his politics?

The short answer is that it doesn’t. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, as well as many other countries with dubious human rights records, are heavily invested in the West, in hotels and movies, in Apple and Twitter, in Citigroup, Time Warner and Valentino to name a very few. In fact, Qatar Investment Authority (the sovereign wealth fund of the Sharia nation of Qatar) is the lead investor of Miramax. But most of these countries’ money doesn’t come from any of these investments, large as they may be. It comes from oil. It comes from the oil we all use.

And therein lies the both the flaw and the hypocrisy of the boycott. To threaten the demise of The Beverly Hills Hotel does not begin to touch the Sultan financially or politically. We don’t pay his check, Shell does. Using the hotel as leverage is really no leverage at all.

Beverly-Hills-Hotel-Serverphoto by Noelle Lewis

How does this affect me?

The Sultan isn’t our boss; he’s our investor. His laws, which are completely not aligned with our code of conduct, do not reach Dorchester Collection properties.

We at The Beverly Hills Hotel are women. We are men. We are gay. We are straight. We are multinational and multicultural. We are the ones who will feel the monetary loss. Profits from the hotel don’t go back to Brunei; they go back into the hotel, to us and to the community.

We participate in AIDSWalk, The Revlon Breast Cancer Walk; we participate in charities and contribute to the preservation of our environment. This leads me to that which I find most hurtful: we do so much to care for so many, but not only those things I mentioned above.

Many of the celebrities, agencies and studios that have forsaken us are those we have taken care of wholly and carefully for all the years I’ve been employed at The Beverly Hills Hotel, plus many more. They know our names; they see our faces almost daily. We have been their bodyguards, their confidantes and their personal assistants. They ask after my husband, my dog.

Some of the celebrities who struck out most venomously against us were some of those we saw most often. I wonder how, knowing us as they do, they have no problem making The Beverly Hills Hotel the face of their outrage? They, to my knowledge, have no problem with any of those companies listed above whose money is also stamped with the blood of Sharia Law, companies who (with the exception of Miramax) have no personal connection to them as we do.

Beverly-Hill-Hotel-2

What should we do?

Some have called for us to quit or to strike and join the boycott. We don’t want this. We love our job and the incredible company for which we work. This is the company that recognized same-sex partnerships before gay marriage was legalized by recognizing and offering insurance to the partners of my co-workers. This is the company whose benefits and commitment to equality transcend any I’ve known.

The concern for human rights is commendable. We should all be part of finding a solution for this global problem. The solution starts with our government and others. Reducing our dependency on oil would help, too. But reducing my income won’t help, I promise you.

Where does this leave us?

For now, our jobs are secure. We are presently being compensated for unintended losses. We have also strongly felt a wave of support from many in the community outside of Hollywood, and even a brave few from within it. Most of the star support has so far been tacit – they’ll be back when “it’s safe.” That’s good enough for me; I am thankful for it. This too shall pass.

Russell-Crowe-tweets-support-Beverly-Hills-Hotel

On the other hand, one star has boldly gone where none have yet to go. Russell Crowe, a loyal and frequent guest, announced loud and clear on Twitter that he has no intention of boycotting us. He said he considers us all “friends.” Us too, Mr. Crowe, us too. I thought they all felt that way.

hotel photos: dorchestercollection.com

Sherri is co-author of What Would You Do With This Room? My 10 Foolproof Commandments to Great Interior Design, and of course, a wht writer!

Profile Photo
Written by sherrishera

53 Comments

  1. Profile photo of amity
    amity

    I really liked getting an insider view on this–a sharply cogent and informative one, at that. And I’m totally with you (and Crowe)–the boycott is disenfranchising innocent people, rather than hitting the actual target of power. Your point about the myriad investments in companies like Apple and Citigroup really resonates too–our commerce/consumption in the US is intertwined with some really ugly stuff, but punishing workers is surely not the answer. Thanks for sharing this–fingers crossed that things improve.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      I think one of the most frustrating things for us has been to not have a loud enough voice to be heard over so much moral righteousness. It’s really hard to be on the perceived “wrong” side of things, even if we don’t personally feel that way. Thanks for reading and I hope you come back to visit The Polo Lounge again. If you do, please introduce yourself to me!

  2. hao9703

    @sherrishera — This is a well written compelling story. My heart goes out to all of the employees at your property. I know this has had to affected employees, hours, pay and over all morale. PLEASE write a follow up in three months or so and let us know how things are going.

  3. Paul

    I sympathize with you all and I wish you the best. I too work for an iconic hotel in Beverly Hills and any little ripple in the hospitality world can have a significant impact on our income. But, I am also gay.

    I won’t go into a Dorchester property or patronize any business associated with The Sultan of Brunei. Why?, because my self-worth is more important. That zealot not only advocates the stoning to death of LGBT people, but also women for “perceived” adultery. If he was killing Black, Christian, or Jewish people, would it then be still OK to patronize any of his businesses? Would you still want to work for him? You mentioned once that we should boycott Shell if we want to make a statement. What about those employees and why is the BHH any different?

    The only thing I can do is not give bigots my money, whether it be Chik Fil A or Shell. They may not feel it, but like I said, my self-worth is more important.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Hi @paul, thanks for joining in the conversation. To clarify, I don’t advocate boycotting Shell, however an effective oil boycott would reach the intended target much more effectively than a hotel boycott. What I am pointing out is that, to be fair and morally sound, you would have to boycott many goods and services, not specifically ours. In fact, you don’t mention which “iconic” Beverly Hills property you work for, but if I were to guess I’d say The Beverly Wilshire since that’s the only other one I can fathom could wear that label. If that is the case, I’m sure you must then be aware of Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s interest in that Four Season’s hotel. My point is where do you draw the line? Moral superiority is tough in a world economy and most people are hypocrites. I personally think that most good people don’t want to be a hypocrite and am, therefore, expressing the whole truth. A full education and dedication to one’s beliefs are the only tools you need to make a responsible moral decision.

  4. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    Thank you so much @turboterp. This has been a big lesson in how powerful the media and a few famous voices can be. It’s so weird being on the other side of that firestorm. If there is one lesson to be learned it is this: don’t be a bandwagon supporter–know your facts and make educated decisions in all you do.

  5. Karen

    I am so glad I read this. It puts so much in perspective compared to what we hear on the news. Bravo Sherri. You’re amazing and with your words, so many will finally get it !!!

    Josh Flagg and many others are reposting your article and hopefully it will work out for all the hard, dedicated employees there.

    Karen

  6. Paul

    Last time I checked, Al-Waleed bin Talal has never instituted a law that requires death by stoning simply because one is LGBT or an adulterous woman, or dismemberment for theft. He has no history of any human rights violations, especially since he is not the ruler of his country. In fact, he has done a lot to bridge cultural gaps between the Middle East and other countries. No surprise that Bill Gates chose him as a business partner.

    Throwing out a random name without any knowledge of the actual person behind the name does nothing to further your cause and shows how weak your actual argument is. I’m no hypocrite and my morals are not situational. You want to work for a company who’s owner wants to kill LGBT people and you want the masses to sympathize? I wouldn’t call boycotting a business owned by a killer of my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters “morally superior”, I would call it a no brainer.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is part of the Saudi Royal family. Saudi Arabia abides by Sharia law. When has Al-Waleed used his position to change that? Or even to speak against it? He has instituted centers for Muslim-Christian understanding, but that understanding does not at all mean he denounces Sharia in his nation. He hasn’t.

      But aside from that, you serve to prove my point further: we tend to draw our moral lines based on our own reality. You call Al-Waleed bin Talal a pioneer in bringing M.E. and West together, ignoring that he is a member of the Sharia-governing Saudi royal family.
      You say that Bill Gates chose HRH Al-Waleed as a business partner so he MUST be ok (that’s akin to saying that The Sultan’s friendship with Prince Charles and President Obama means he MUST be ok). That’s parsing. You find the good and overlook the bad to justify your employment. Yes, I say that is hypocritical considering your stance on my place of employment.
      I am, however, glad that you must like your job as I do mine. Peace.

  7. Profile photo of lyssachelle
    lyssachelle

    I’m so glad to read this, and I hope it gets out. (Hello, Huffington Post?) There are thousands of moral choices we make every day and we constantly vote with our dollars, whether we know it or not. Boycotting a single hotel is not akin to the boycotting of other businesses that ARE effected by a boycott. It’s minor activism at best and it doesn’t do much.
    You are a smart and lovely person @sherrishera and this article, as well as your comments, prove it even more. Those guests at The Beverly Hill Hotel guests are lucky to have you!

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Thank you so much! I have had so many positive comments (and even changed a mind or two)…the response has been overwhelming. I’m very happy for it.

  8. Christopher Bradley

    Tips and jobs at The Beverly Hills Hotel are important, but they’re not as important as gays and lesbians being stoned to death in Brunei.

    And I’m disgusted that you’re making the argument that they are.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      @Christopher, I am hardly making the suggestion that tips are as important as anyone’s life or torture. In fact, what I am trying to show everyone the incredible disconnect between the two, as well as the hypocrisy of making a single group of hotels (mine in particular) the face of that outrage.
      If you drive a car you contribute to the Sultan’s wealth far more than the hotel does since oil is the source of his income and his wealth. The hotel is an investment, a piece of paper with little value–not income–to him. The fact that countries with sharia law on the books–there are many–own so much in America, yet we are suddenly the face of that outrage angers me.
      Where was everyone’s ire during all the years of other countries’ sharia laws and where are the protesters of their acquisitions? Where were you all when Nigeria implemented sharia earlier this year?
      What also angers me, perhaps most, in this misplaced armchair activism is that REAL political opportunities to change Brunei’s sharia implementation are slipping by. The President would like to give the Sultan special economic privileges through the TransPacific Trade Pact with Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and others. Act on this! It hasn’t happened yet and if you put your political voice to work, you CAN change this.
      Ignorance and wasted political opportunities are where I place my disgust.

    2. an old us citizen

      How many gays and lesbians have been stoned in Brunei?

      If your comment is based on fact and not hysteria, please share the information.

      If you know of a gay or lesbian that has been stoned in Brunei; that would make your efforts to discount the importance of another person’s livelihood almost something to consider, except for that fact that Brunei is a sovereign nation with their own laws, just like the USA is a sovereign nation with our laws.

      Are you prepared to discount, boycott, or destroy the livelihood of all persons working in the USA whose retirement or investment portfolios are associated with a Sovereign Wealth Fund?

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Thank you for reading, but I need to correct that Sharia is not practiced anywhere in the United States. There may be people who believe in the principles of sharia for religious purposes, but our laws in the U.S. Are definitely not aligned with them. The U.S., like the company I work for (based in London) adheres to a very high standard of human and civil rights for all.

  9. Profile photo of Erin
    Erin

    What an interesting job! It is a shame hard workers have to suffer the consequences of something they have no control over…. Too many times people jump on the bandwagon and don’t consider the full extent of their actions. Hope this passes soon.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Thank you! The support means so much to me. I do need to add a celebrity name to those who support us at the BHH: Rose McGowan.
      As a long-time LGBT activist, her presence in our fight is truly brave and heartwarming. Not only has she shared this post with her legions of fans, she has stepped up to the plate by hosting “gay-ins” at the BHH on Wednesday nights, first in a Bar 1912, then in a The Polo Lounge. We are touched by her kindness and generosity.

  10. woodin

    change….f the politicians, f the super rich, f the UN, f the world dirty investors who make a dime on everyone lifes…..we really have not evolved as a worldwide society/culture….. grassroots is everything, without it we are lost. Screw the hotel.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      @woodin, while I agree that grassroots is a hallmark of our free democracy, you are trying to affect a society that is anything but democratic. Using these Western tactics on a super rich monocracy is simply ineffective. The fact that this is hurting innocent people without hurting Brunei should be reason enough to stop.

  11. Christopher Bradley

    Because the jobs of a handful of American waiters at a luxury hotel in Los Angeles are more important than women and gays being stoned to death in Brunei.

    And if the boycott wasn’t working, why would someone be funding this very slick website?

    1. Profile photo of Stef Andrews
      Stef Andrews

      Hi Christopher, Stef here, co-editor of this slick website (which I can assure you is receiving no funding whatsoever in relation to the boycott or the BHH.) I think the point Sherri is trying to make is that both are important in their own way. And the way to impact one is not to sacrifice the other. There are better ways. But I’ll let her speak to that.
      Thanks for your comment.

  12. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    (1) See my previous response to you.
    (2) the boycott is working insofar as OUR jobs are suffering, yet meanwhile in Brunei…nothing changes, nothing’s felt…which has been my point all along.

    And while I’m sure the editors of WHT are very happy that you think the site is slick, no monies are paid to them from Dorchester Collection or any associates. I’ve been a writer here for years. You should check out the website’s history…there is much for you to learn (about makeup and pop culture).

    1. Christopher Bradley

      While I’m glad you’re not being paid to do the PR you’re doing for the Sultan of Brunei, I stand by my comment.

      Following your logic, you would have criticized Dr. Martin Luther King’s bus boycott. After all, what about the jobs of the bus drivers?? And African Americans didn’t have civil rights a month later, so what was the point of boycotting?

  13. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    I’m absolutely glad you mentioned the bus boycott. It’s one of those things being thrown around as a reason why boycotts work. Well, some do. When you are boycotting busses because Rosa Parks isn’t allowed to have a seat before a white person, or must sit in the back of the bus, you have a cause and effect situation. Busses don’t allow this…we don’t ride busses…city transportation is crippled…city must relent. In the case of the hotel boycott, you are boycotting American workers of a London-based company whose profits DO NOT go to our investor… in order to get our investor–a ruler in a monocracy a world away from us who is not subject to our laws–to change the laws in his country. You have eliminated the cause and effect. Or rather, you take up a cause but the effect is not on the intended target.

    Also, let me address apartheid in South Africa because that is another situation changed by boycotting. In that case, a nation’s economy was crippled by those boycotts. Once again, the intended target (South African government) was intensely affected by the lack of trade, tourism and entertainment in that country, and the government was left with no choice but to capitulate. The sultan could let the Beverly Hills Hotel rot for all eternity and not notice a difference in his unfathomable wealth. He will not capitulate because this investment is absolutely insignificant to him.
    Now, I reiterate, if everyone were to refocus on the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact being sought with Brunei by OUR government as we speak, you may have the Sultan’s ear. Maybe.

    1. WGH

      I respect the fact that you’re in a tough position but I have two questions for clarification please:

      1. If the hotel is making up for your lost tips and wages and the unintended consequences, then how exactly is the staff at the hotels suffering? I can imagine it’s a little depressing to go to work every day, but financially how is the staff suffering?

      2. With respect to your argument about boycotts and cause and effect, while I understand the idea that the hotel is owned by a London company and he is just an investor (maybe a tenuous connection), your argument seems to rely on the fact that, since the Sultan is so wealthy, there is really nothing anyone could EVER do by way of boycotts to change his behavior, so why bother? The last part of your comment about he *maybe* will listen if the US excludes Brunei from a trade pact seems to underscore that position. Are you saying that b/c he is so rich and will never notice that one should never bother standing up to him?

      Finally, if he is so rich and the hotel is making up for lost wages and tips, presumably they can do so indefinitely, so are you really being hurt?

      Last question – lets say he will never notice the money, but what would happen if, as a result of this, his son (who recently decided to produce movies) got shunned from the fashion and movie elites he covets? What would happen if gradually the Brunei family became persona non grata in international circles? What if, a a result of the stigma of a boycott, they decided “you know what, it’s more important to me (the son of the Sultan) to live my rich fancy life so I’m just going to sell the hotels and move on?” Would it then be a waste?

  14. Emily

    Hi Sherri,
    My husband and I have been guests at The BHH&B at least once a year since 2008 and have had the pleasure of having you as our server. We knew this article was written by you just by the the passion in your writing of your love of old movies and old Hollywood. We think of our “friends” who work in all departments of the Pink Palace and keep you and your families in our prayers. It can’t be easy being punished for the actions of some moron with more money than brains!!! And obviously no heart! (Guess the sultan is kind of like the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion before they met the wizard. You know, lack of heart, brains and courage . . . .Although people in this great country have the right to boycott its sad that it divides us when we all hate what the sultan is doing.
    There is one thing that always stands out in our minds about the BHH&B every time we visit, they Do Not discriminate. We are not celebrities but get the star treatment. They treat everyone with the same respect and attention. For this reason, we will be checking in soon.
    Warmest regards to all the servers in the Polo Lounge and Pepe.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      What a lovely note! Thank you so much on behalf of all of us. While I can’t place you based solely on this comment, I hope that you will let me know you wrote this when I see you.
      You state our feelings well, and I shared this comment with Pepe.
      Currently our business is up and down, but every day we see another familiar face to offer their support. I’m confident that when people continue to see the futility of this method of fight we will be back on top. Thanks for knowing we belong there.

  15. Dan Johnson

    Thanks for the article. It taught me there is a potential new ally in the effort to wean our economy off of oil as much as possible: the LGBT community. I hadn’t seen the direct connection between some of the world’s worst treatment of LGBT and the American efforts to electrify our transportation, increase fuel efficiency and dramatically expand high speed rail and public transportation. Buying less of their oil is the best way to hurt the despots. Thank you for making that connection clear for me.

  16. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    @WGH, thanks for entering the discussion. As for your first question concerning how we are being hurt since our wages are being compensated, my answer is twofold.

    First, though the compensations are a generous (and, frankly, unheard of) gesture by Dorchester Collection, they are based on past averages and are evenly distributed. We are assuredly not making what we were in recent months.

    Second, while business is not as bad as some are making it out to be, we are still missing a lot of our Hollywood clientele. Not only is it a fun and exciting aspect to our job, but we have forged friendships, personally and professionally. That we have been abandoned by many of these friends for nothing of our own making is upsetting. As many could imagine, the celebrity set requires a bit more maintenance, discretion and care than the average Joe. We put in our time, go above and beyond the job description for our profession, and are left to freeze in the cold.

    But more and more stars are joining us again…I just personally thanked several tonight. Some come incognito, some have sent private messages, some have sent money. It seems everyone is waiting for the green light.

    Also, I feel I must add that while the subsidizing of our tips has been termed “indefinite,” it has not been termed “infinite.” Just as I mentioned that the hotel’s profits don’t go back to Brunei, that they go to the hotel, the community and to us, it is also true that these profits are what is sustaining us now. The company is a very good and generous one. We are also non-union which is very good for us, particularly now.

    As for your second question, quite honestly, the answer is yes–I don’t think any boycott outside of a full-on oil boycott could work. Though preventing the Trade Partnership that I mention could send a message to the Sultan that we do not approve of Sharia, it would probably do little else. You see, it is the U.S. that is pursuing this partnership to encourage the Brunei oil trade. They don’t need us for their economy. Even if the special allowances being offered in the pact do not see passage, we will still trade with Brunei.

    I truly think that the only thing that could change the Sultan’s position are his own people. If the people of Brunei would revolt and threaten to overthrow him, he may change. The problem with that is that people are mostly quite happy in Brunei. The government is quite generous with its people, who are mostly Muslim. The culture is not ours.

    The probable reason that the Sultan is enacting Sharia now isn’t because he’s suddenly more religious than before, it’s more likely that he needs to look like a strong Muslim leader (like the Al-Sauds of Saudi Arabia, for example) to his people and the world, for purposes of politics and trade.

    As for the Sultan and his family becoming “persona non grata” in the lavish circles in which they’ve always run, I wouldn’t think that would change for long. The Sultan has always paid extravagantly for many Hollywood elite to entertain, and many never minded lining their own pockets for the right price. Why do I think this will continue to be the case? Because morality doesn’t trump money when it comes to causes and business. Why else would not one star mind making movies for Qatar-owned Miramax in spite of that country’s Sharia law? Why else could Sharon Osbourne vocally boycott our hotel, then turn around and join her husband as his band, Black Sabbath, performs in Abu Dhabi, taking money from that Sharia nation (UAE)?

    My article is about my personal hurt, my genuine worry, and my overall anger at the hypocrisy that surrounds this boycott. Hollywood (in general–I adore those who have supported us, in public and/or in private) won’t let themselves get hurt, but they don’t mind pushing us out on the front lines.

  17. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    Oh, I’m sorry @WGH, I forgot that last question. I can’t think of a case where owning the hotel would infringe on his “fancy” life to any great extent. I can think of how dumping the hotel would make him look weak to the other oil nations of the world, however. That is a position in which the Sultan definitely does not want to be.

    And, if I’m wrong on that last, and your final question, “Would it then be a waste?” were valid? I’d say it would have been a waste because Sharia would still stand while our hotel would change hands (to who knows who? Another Sharia nation like Al Waleed bin Talal’s?). It’s a never-ending tale.

    1. WGH

      Thoughtful answers and well written. Thanks for clarifying on the wages part, I have been very confused by the idea that the employees of the hotels have been pushed in front as the reason to ignore the boycott while they also talk about how the company is keeping the company from being hurt. I also understand the part about how the job is exciting and fun b/c of the clients, but candidly I don’t think that’s not a great reason to do or not do anything.

      I do take exception to the boycott point you make, that no boycott would ever work. Boycotts are really about two things, money and stigma. The money part you’re short term right and long term (respectfully) not write. The reason the Canadian dollar and the Canadian economy was strong through the financial crisis was b/c they have oil. The reason why the Canadian dollar is weakening is natural gas. Long term, the oil dependency situation will change. But for now, you’re right, there is nothing to be done.

      However, the stigma piece is something else. In the case of South Africa, it took decades for that to change. But let’s be honest, if every royal family and every celebrity and every wealthy person refused to ever be seen or deal with the Brunei ruling family, they would not like it. For the same reason they don’t care if the hotels suffer, they also don’t care if they do well. It’s one drop in an ocean of money.

      But play it forward a bit and think about the following – you are correct that there are many countries that have implemented Sharia law that we do business with. Does that make it right? Does that make it ok? Take it all to its logical extreme and ask yourself this – will you feel comfortable working there when it hits the news that a woman was stoned for perceived adultery? Will it all be so abstract and theoretically bad but practically ok when a gay person is flogged or has their hands cut off? Where does it stop?

      I’m very sympathetic to what you’re dealing with but when I see what is happening in Iraq where Muslims are fighting with each other, implementing Sharia law, killing each other for being not Sunni or not Shia, it’s just insane and at some point one has to say “ok, enough.” The reality of Sharia law varies from place to place. Stoning, for example, only really happens in three countries, Iran, Pakistan and Somalia. But regardless of how “happy” the people of Brunei are, they live in Brunei with their set of values and we live here with ours. Ours includes respecting and protecting the people they want to marginalize and criminalize. It has to stop. Will you help?

  18. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    @WGH, I do honestly appreciate the thoughtful exchange. I feel this is an opportunity to make my point stronger. Your last question, “Will you help?” is ambiguous. It feels as though you want me to say this boycott is justified. I strongly feel it is not.

    Before I delve into deeper things, I want to address that about my hurt at friends turning their backs on us. That is not said for you, or for people in general, to feel badly. That is said directly to those people who have turned their backs on us. I don’t know you, you don’t know me. I understand a betrayal of personal friendship and trust is not an issue for you in this decision. Now onward…

    I feel that trying to sway the Sultan is akin to peace between Palistine and Israel. Whenever religious beliefs are the core of a conflict, there is much more going on than something a boycott can remedy. Surely there is more going on that something such a misdirected boycott can remedy.

    Your comment concerning South Africa confuses me as well. Because it took ten years does not change the fact that it was a boycott focused at breaking an economy of that nation. A parallel boycott in this discussion would, once again be oil (or natural gas). Other than those, that economy will not be broken. Yes, stigma encouraged others to boycott (I remember–and owned–that record “I, no I…ain’t gonna play Sun City…”). But again, the stigma encouraged the boycott that crippled the nation’s economy. This stigma encourages people to avoid lunching with luminaries with no effect upon Brunei’s GNP.

    Politically, Brunei is a chess piece. There is a reason the State Department is pursuing the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact. It’s not just oil. They are our allies and, though tiny, they are important to our military as well. The U.S. has many reasons not to push Brunei. They have been a very moderate Islamic country and, though these new laws seem to point in a different direction, the situation is tenuous. My honest and very humble opinion is that these were enacted to gain respect from the other Islamic nations as Brunei hold hands with the U.S. and Great Britian as well.

    Your statement about stoning being limited to the countries mentioned is inacurate. Stoning as judicial punishment is on the books in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Yemen and Indonesia as well as others. As far as stoning being carried out as JUDICIAL sentences, there is the worldwide political stigma that makes the sentences rare to non-existent in these countries. Extrajudicial stonings (i.e. by family members who feel justified and are thereby protected from prosecution by the law) are excluded here. The fact is that an actual stoning is about as likely to take place in Brunei as it is in Saudi Arabia. Both countries are aware of world perceptions.

    You also ask me how I’d feel as the first stoning or amputation takes place. Well, I don’t believe in the death penalty or torture PERIOD, so an equal question would be one asking how I felt about U.S. executions or Guantanamo Bay. My moral compass says these are wrong based on my beliefs. Do I live elswhere? Do I want to? No.

    The world is a crazy place to live.

    I will pose some final questions to you. Do you exclude yourself from all dealings with nations that have Sharia law (or human rights violations in general) on the books? Do you have a no tolerance policy for all nations such as this? Who owns the company you work for? If your company is a publically traded one, how do you reconcile that likely you, too, have investors that are not in keeping with your standards?

    In a world economy we all are equally culpable and helpless.

    I’m not asking that you change these–I know it is impossible. I’m not saying protesting is useless–I’m saying that you’re protesting the wrong thing. If Twitter sparked Arab Spring, why can’t voices be directed at their targets instead of at good people working for great companies where human rights are the last things being taken or violated?

    I’ve enjoyed the debate, @WGH.

    1. an old us citizen

      Thank you so much for your comments.

      Like you, I sincerely believe that the BHH is the wrong target. Through out history, religious beliefs have been the cause of many deaths, divisions of families, hatred, bigotry and all types of cruelty including slavery. These acts can be found in many holy books, including the Bible, the Tanakh or Torah and the Quran.

      Because we live in a nation that separates religious beliefs from government authority or government control, we become outraged when other nations choose to follow the teachings of their holy books.

      Stoning and other forms of what we would consider cruelties or decimation can be found in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning#Brunei

      In the early 70s our US President, Richard Nixon sign an agreement with Saudi Arabia to make the US dollar the only currency used in the sale of oil, in exchanged for protection and arms. That deal created the Petrodollar which has made us the nation that held the currency needed by all nation needing oil — putting the US dollar in high demand. It was not until Saddam Hussein rejected the use of the US dollar and took the matter before the world court and won, that brought about a threat to our sovereignty in the control of the sale of oil. Suddenly Iraq had the “non-existing” weapons of mass destruction. Other nations that tried to follow the same course became “the axis of evil” our enemies.

      The point I’m trying to make is, any one using the US dollar, including Jay Leno and his wife, Ellen DeGeneres and all of the other celebrities that joined the boycott are choosing to ignore the fact that our US dollar is strongly depended on and supported by nations that support, respect and believe in Sharia Law.

      How many of the people boycotting the BHH are willing to reject the US dollar? How many are prepared to use only currencies that are in no way associated with the Petrodollar?

  19. an old us citizen

    To: Christopher Bradley

    There is a huge difference between a celebrity calling for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and a black person forced to give up their seat on a bus when and if a white person could not find a seat ahead of them. It’s a huge difference because our nation’s laws protected racial discrimination. The black people that choose to walk for miles each day to go to work did so with great threat to their jobs and their physical well being. Some were jailed and beaten.

    When a celebrity makes a public statement expressing their moral outrage about a religious law put in place in a small Islamic nation on the other side of the world – where’s the comparison to what those black American’s had to endure just to go to work right here in America.

    Other than getting free press and being used by a local union, what ill treatment has those celebrities been forced to endure?

    When members of the local union 11 put mask of Jay Leno and Allen DeGeneres while protesting and handing out flyers in front of Hotel Bel–Air that should have told you all you need to know about this boycott. This protest against the BHH and the other Dorchester properties is about a local union trying to take out the competition.

    If the celebrity and union protestors were sincerely outraged about the enactment of Sharia Law, why aren’t they protesting Shell Oil? There are Shell gas stations located throughout the city and the nation. Shell Oil is one of the biggest money makers in the Brunei Sovereign Wealth Fund.

    Selective indignation has to be questioned.

    1. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Thanks for bringing into the equation Local 11. Although we at the hotel have always known that the union was feeding the press in an effort to gain control of our hotel, the bigger question has always been the Sultan and his policies. Once the big questions have been addressed and the layers come off, we can fight the union on a level playing field.
      I wish to add on that note that the employees have always been happy to be non-union. We do not pay union dues, yet our pay is higher, our benefits are greater and our protections are on par with any union hotel. Did I mention that our parking is free? I threw that information into my response because unions can be very good…or very bad verging on downright corrupt.

  20. Rob Hennig

    First, full disclosure. I am an attorney currently engaged in litigation against the Beverly Hills Hotel on behalf of my clients. I am sure my clients would disagree with the overly sweet portrayal you have of the Hotel and its management.

    Second, you need to provide full disclosure as well. Your article uses the p.r. picture taken by the Hotel as part of its p.r. efforts against the boycott. Did you get any approval or help from the Hotel’s General Manager, Ed Mady? The Dorchester Collection’s Manager Christopher Cowdry? Did you get any assistance from any p.r. consulting firms hired to act against the boycott? I suggest you need to be candid to the readers about the role of all of these folks in your “personal opinions.”

    Third, just how much money do you make as a server at the Hotel? Some jobs at the hotel pay very well with gratuities, but a lot of others pay considerably less. You are in one of the highest paid positions as a server in the Polo Lounge. You conspicuously do not mention how much you money you do make. Have your earnings gone done from $100K a year to $80K? You leave all of that out. Of course, you mention that the Hotel is paying in full your gratuities that you lost, but somehow this is not full compensation. Again, how much money are we actually talking about?

    It seems like you think you are entitled to a nice paying job in the service industry for life. Restaurants and clubs decline in popularity for many different reasons. Why is a boycott so unfair? Would you be writing if the Polo Lounge just stopped being popular with the celebrity crowd because they found somewhere else to go? Restaurants close because the owners retire or because of a lost lease or many other reasons. Would you be writing if that were the reason?

    You conspicuously note in a comment that you are glad the hotel is not unionized. The Hotel was unionized and then it was closed down by the then ownership structure (again, the Sultan was the owner through shell corporations) for a two year renovation. Then it reopened as a non-union hotel (just as the Hotel Bel-Air did recently). A big reason there was a job available for you as a server at the Polo Lounge after the reopening is that the Hotel’s management refused to rehire the old staff back after the reopening. Do you feel any remorse for the men and women who lost their jobs and were not rehired? What do you say to the unionized employees who lost their jobs because of the Hotel’s management refusal to rehire them?

    You can certainly criticize any boycott as unfair. You can say in your opinion it will not do any good. But as a consumer I have a right to decide where I put my money. I can choose not to patronize the Beverly Hills Hotel because it is ultimately owned by the Sultan of Brunei. The other examples you cite are of investments made by people you claim are similarly situated to the Sultan of Brunei. You may not think that the boycott is going to do much good. But as a consumer, I have the right to disagree with your view and put my money where I want to. I also have the right to tell others that I want them to honor the boycott as well.

    By the way, the Beverly Hills Hotel is 100 percent owned by the Sultan who comes to stay at the Hotel usually at least once a year. You omit that. Do you serve him too? Are you going to say something about your thoughts on Sharia law to him or his very large entourage next time they stay at the Hotel? Do you regard him as a “friend” too?

    1. Profile photo of Stef Andrews
      Stef Andrews

      Rob – as co-editor of we heart this, I’ll only speak to your second point, photo credit. All photos are credited above (as we always do.) As noted, we had permission to use all photos in this article.

    2. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      Mr. Hennig,

      First of all, I hope you, as well as all our readers, had a lovely Fourth of July holiday. I apologize for the delay in responding, but my wedding anniversary buttresses the holiday and we were celebrating in Vegas. I am anxious to reply.

      I understand from your statement and from my brief research that you are an employment and personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. In the interest of “full disclosure” you portend to that I have not provided equal or adequate disclosures. This is, I believe, the first of many inaccuracies within your comment here. Let me address your concerns.

      First, I, like you, have identified my vested interest in the hotel when writing this piece. I am a server in the Polo Lounge and have been since 1997. Like you, I do not state my specific income. I did, however, mention within the article that I am quite well paid. I never suggested that I am a low-wage worker. My specific income should be no more a concern of yours than how much you are making (or hope to make) from your pending litigation against the hotel is mine. You do not mention the specifics concerning this litigation and I am sure it has something to do with client confidentiality. We have similar rules of respect and confidentiality within Dorchester Collection. As far as the compensation that we are currently and generously receiving, I have already addressed this in previous comments and see no need to repeat myself.

      Second, you suggest that my opinions are not my own, but rather have been transformed and manipulated by a Dorchester Collection PR machine. You are absolutely wrong. The picture of me in this article is not, as you state, a “p.r. picture taken by the Hotel as part of its p.r. efforts against the boycott.” The picture was taken by one of our hostesses with my very own iPhone at the start of one of my shifts. Neither The Beverly Hills Hotel nor its PR asked me to write this piece, We Heart This co-editor, Stef Andrews did. I wrote the piece entirely on my own, but did submit it to the hotel’s PR Consultant Leslie Lefkowitz before it was posted. This was done to make sure that the post was in keeping with Dorchester Collection’s Code of Conduct. This is standard procedure and my words weren’t censored. Other than her request to omit specific names of a few of the celebrities and heads of state I have met over the years (as part of DC’s commitment to respecting guests’ privacy), the post you see is pretty much the draft she saw. Neither Mr. Mady nor Mr. Cowdray saw this post before it went live. I confirmed this with Ms. Lefkowitz before writing this response. I would like to add that we the workers are not being forced to participate in any PR campaigns, or manipulated in any fashion. We truly love our jobs, along with the excellent pay and benefits that working for The Beverly Hills Hotel offers. We are constantly being polled as to our satisfaction, and our satisfaction is repeatedly extremely high. This alone is reason for all of us to defend our hotel and our employment. I would happily, however, assist the hotel and its PR team in any efforts to end the boycott.

      Third, you speak of The Beverly Hills Hotel having been unionized, then closed for two years for renovations resulting in the loss of many union jobs. While this is true, what you fail to mention is that, after the change in ownership, the hotel was in desperate need of renovation. The workers at the time of the closure (1993) were given generous severance based on their years of service and the positions they held. Contrary to your statement, these same workers were offered rehire upon the hotel’s reopening in 1995. Many came back immediately; many came back months or years later. Some, of course, changed paths. A shining example of one of these return employees is my immediate supervisor, Pepe De Anda. Pepe started at the Beverly Hills Hotel as a bus person and Room Service waiter, eventually becoming our now-famous maître d’. There are many other stories like his, as well. Pepe, like the rest of us, is very happy with our present employer as well as OUR decision to remain non-union.

      Fourth, I can respect the right to boycott but feel that there is a dearth of information in the media. There are also self-serving entities that would like to see the boycott continue without relevance to the actual supposed cause.

      Fifth, you mention that the BHH is “100 percent owned by the Sultan who comes to stay at the Hotel usually at least once a year.” In fact, the Brunei Investment Agency, a sovereign Wealth Fund of Brunei, is the owner. As for who stays at the hotel, protecting the privacy of all guests is of paramount importance to us and I would never comment on guest visits of any kind.

      Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate the opportunity to address all concerns.

    3. Jonathan

      Rob – you’re an ambulance chaser who is out for money. No one cares what you think, it’s clear that the majority rules here. As you can see, or you wouldn’t bother being here. Must be a little scared?

  21. Eugene

    @Rob I find it quite insulting and pompous that you assume a server cannot have passionate “personal opinions” and that PR must be behind Sherri’s eloquent thoughtful responses. Perhaps an apology is in order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge