Letter to Starwood CEO: Cuba Deal Violates Corporate Ethics Code

Thursday, August 4, 2016
A coalition of labor, political prisoner, human rights and other pro-democracy groups from inside and outside Cuba have sent the following letter to Starwood Hotels regarding their recent partnership with the Cuban military:

July 28, 2016

Thomas B. Mangas
Chief Executive Officer
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. “Starwood”
One StarPoint
Stamford, Connecticut 06902

RE: “Do the Right Thing” – CUBA: No Commerce Without Morality

Dear Mr. Mangas,

The announcement that Starwood signed three hotel deals in Cuba, indicates a total breach of your own Human Rights Policy Statement and Business Partners expectations. Starwood’s new business partner, the Castro Military Regime orders the public burning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is in violation of all the points outlined in your policy, has total disregard of workers’ rights and does not in any way meet the criteria Starwood established for business partners, being that Castro’s Regime is one of the worst violators of international human rights principles.

As CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., (“Starwood”) based in Stamford, Connecticut, you preside over a portfolio featuring 11 distinct hotel brands in addition to Starwood Residences and vacation ownership. While amassing this impressive, diverse inventory of brands, Starwood has pledged a commitment within the company’s sphere of influence towards respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Starwood’s pledge transcends its own corporate policies to “Do the Right Thing” to include that of its “sphere of influence” - namely business partners.

The Company adopted a Human Rights Policy Statement which you signed on December 2015. This policy contains the following commitments made by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, including to:

-Respect the human rights standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
-Commitment to conduct business in a manner consistent with these standards
-Conduct ongoing human rights due diligence 
-Non-discrimination with respect to employment
-Treat workers fairly with respect to wages, working hours, and benefits
-Committed to freedom of association 
-Zero Tolerance for all forms of forced, bonded or compulsory labor
-Support the elimination of exploitative child labor

Business Partners. Starwood promotes adherence to international human rights principles amongst our business partners. We incorporate human rights into our decision making process related to business relationships, sponsorships and client engagements and will use our leverage to promote human rights as appropriate.

On the one hand, Starwood claims to do business in a sphere where human rights, workers’ rights are paramount above all else. On the other hand, Starwood has a desire to be a “first mover”, a “formidable competitor” as you, yourself stated on Starwood’s official “Cuba Expansion” press announcement dated March 19, 2016.

If as you stated in your policy, Starwood “incorporates human rights into our decision making process related to business partners,” there is absolutely no justification for signing a business deal with the Castro Military Regime. It would seem that the desire to be a “first mover,” a “formidable competitor” caused Starwood to turn a blind eye to nearly six decades of well documented atrocities at the very hands that inked the deal with Starwood.

Keith Grossman, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Starwood concluded: “Through our discussions and due diligence, it became clear that Starwood was the right choice…” The Castro Military Regime is the total antithesis of Starwood’s public stance on fairness for workers. To consider yourselves the “right choice,” “after due diligence” would mean that Starwood accepts being an accessory to violating the following international labor standards:

International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions Systematically Violated in CUBA:

#87 Freedom of Association & Right to Organize
#95 Protection of Wages
#98 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention
#111 Discrimination
#122 Employment Policy

In Cuba, it is the “governing body” itself that has created a “Slave State.” Kenneth S. Siegel, Starwood’s Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel stated that “improving employment opportunities” were among the driving forces in Starwood’s discussions. Make no mistake, whereas “opportunities” were part of this deal with the Castro Military Regime, “improving employment opportunities” is not one of them.  That can only come about when international labor standards are enforceable and that is not within Starwood’s capabilities nor will that happen while the Castro Military Regime is in power.

Mr. Mangas, we implore for Starwood to adhere to its own policies as well as universally accepted principles which are in total opposition to your contract with the Castro Military Regime.

We ask for you, as CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. to “Do the Right Thing” by divesting immediately from any business with the Castro Military Regime and its military controlled companies. Furthermore, we urge that you meet with members of the Cuban Independent Labor Movements, which are not recognized by the Castro Regime since they dare call out for basic workers’ rights for Cubans, the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of Cuban American organizations based in the United States and the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, the coalition of pro-democracy organizations in the island.

For those of us touched in one way or another by Castro’s murderous Regime, we hope that as CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. you will give us a reason for continuing to patronize Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, Four Points, and the rest of the brands in your impressive portfolio. That would mean that you placed supporting Human Rights first and that would mean that we all win.
We kindly request that you respond by Friday, August 5th as to your willingness to discuss your position on Cuba with representatives of the Cuban Resistance and the Cuban Independent Labor Union.

Asamblea De La Resistencia

Agreed to this 28th day of July 2016 by:

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo
Coalición Sindical Independiente de Cuba

José Luis Fernández
Presidio Político Histórico Cubano

Joel Brito
Jose “Pepe” Collado
Grupo Internacional de Responsabilidad Corporativa

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”  
Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo  
Isela Fiterri
MAR por Cuba

Horacio Garcia
Cuban Liberty Council

Fernando Mirabal
Comité Cubano Americano de  Rescate

Rodolfo Rodríguez San Roman
Frente Unido Occidental

Pedro Peñaranda
Círculos Municipalistas Democráticos

German Miret
Dr. Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat
Directorio Democrático Cubano

José Pérez Gil
Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionaria

Laida Carro
Coalition of Cuban American Women

Rafael Artiles
Movimiento 30 de noviembre