CEDAR RAPIDS — Employees at a southwest Cedar Rapids hotel have started a toy drive and fundraising page to help each other make ends meet and celebrate the holidays.
The efforts come after employees at the hotel formerly known as the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center said they have not been paid since early November.
“We have to do something for the kids. They deserve Christmas. Most of them missed Thanksgiving because the paychecks weren’t on time,” said Ted Canfield, a maintenance worker at the hotel.
“I thought, there’s no way I’m not going to make some kind of effort for these kids.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division opened an investigation in November into the hotel. A spokesman for the department did not respond Friday when asked about the investigation’s status.
Canfield said three businesses have agreed to accept donations for the toy drive — Just Coz Tavern, 402 Sixth St. SW; Skin Worthy Tattoo, 1601 Sixth St. SW; and Air Filter Sales and Services, 210 33rd St. Dr. SE.
Jamie Shelton, a housekeeper at the hotel, also set up a GoFundMe campaign to collect money for the hotel’s 45 employees. She said she hopes the campaign raises enough to give each employee a “little bit of money.”
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Paychecks, employees previously told The Gazette, were either delayed or did not clear. Some employees estimated they are owed a few hundred dollars while others said they are owed more than $1,000.
April Clair, a housekeeper, said she and her five children weren’t able to have Thanksgiving dinner or a daughter’s birthday party because she wasn’t paid.
“She couldn’t have a birthday party I normally give my kids because I didn’t have a check. Now here it is Christmas and I can’t really get stuff for Christmas because I don’t have a check,” Clair said.
Two local unions, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 125 and Carpenters Union Local 308, have donated $2,500 to the employees. Built By Pros, a marketing and advertising company for the unions, also contributed.
“I hope (it) just maybe eases the pain or burden of Christmas, first off, and then we can go from there,” Local 125 Business Manager Jerry Hobart said.
Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion name, did its own investigation and terminated its relationship with the hotel. The termination means the Cedar Rapids hotel can no longer call itself a Clarion.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said her office has reached out to the U.S. Department of Labor about the hotel after an employee asked her to get involved.
Hassan Hussein, the owner of the hotel, previously denied the hotel was having problems paying employees. Hussein took over the 156-room hotel, 525 33rd Ave. SW, in March through his Virginia-based company, HRDMM Hospitality Services.
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“All the partners are working to resolve the situation, even with restoring our franchise of Clarion, but we have our options open at this time for the franchise,” Hussein said in an email Friday.
Some employees, including Shelton, told The Gazette Friday morning they had just received checks for a previous pay period. They credited a business partner of Hussein’s, Ashok Kalra, for trying to fix the payment problems.
Kalra visited the hotel this week. He is the managing partner of the Mughal Mahal Group of Restaurants, a restaurant chain based in Kuwait, according to his online biography.
Shelton said employees would continue the toy drive and fundraising effort.
“Right now, we’re just playing catch up,” she said.
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