Niagara Falls hotel apologizes to U.K. tourists it evicted for supporting strike

The owner of the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls hotel says the father and daughter won't have to pay for their stay after they were kicked out for supporting striking workers at the Rainforest Café, owned by the same company.

Alan Tomlinson says he and his daughter were left 'on the street'

Alan Tomlinson, front, second from right, and his daughter Lauren, next to him, pose with striking Rainforest Café workers. (Workers United Canada Council)

A Niagara Falls hotel is apologizing to two U.K. tourists it evicted for supporting striking workers at the city's Rainforest Café and promising they won't be charged for their stay following the "unfortunate situation."

It's a sharp about-face for Canadian Niagara Hotels Inc., which operates both the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls hotel and the café, and initially said the hotel had followed its "security protocol for legally evicting a guest."

However, a statement Wednesday, sent by spokesperson Sarah Vazquez blamed hotel security for kicking out Alan and Lauren Tomlinson, saying staff "failed to make the significant distinction" between union demonstrators and the two tourists on vacation showing support for them.

"Alan and Lauren Tomlinson were caught in an unfortunate situation, and for this the hotel apologizes and the hotel has not charged them for their stay," the statement said.

The Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls hotel has apologized to the Tomlinsons for evicting them after they joined the workers' rally at the Rainforest Café on April 13. (Lauren Tomlinson/Facebook)

Alan Tomlinson, 61, said he has not received any email from the hotel since the pair was turfed, adding news of the hotel's change of heart didn't help him or his daughter much.

"It does not make me feel any better. My holiday was spoiled and we were thrown out on the street," he said in an email to CBC News. "I told them we were guests!"

Pair says they held signs, passed out leaflets

The Tomlinsons checked into the Crowne Plaza on April 8. The next day, while walking around the city, they encountered the striking workers rallying outside the theme restaurant and decided to give them "moral support," Alan said.

That support included pictures of Lauren holding signs, which were shared on social media, and the pair spending about an hour on April 13 handing out leaflets and talking to passersby about the strike.

That same day, the pair was kicked out of the hotel.

Alan says security followed his 21-year-old daughter back from a rally to her hotel room and threatened to call police and have the pair's car towed unless they left.

They eventually agreed to leave despite arguing they had done nothing wrong, but say they were refused a refund at the front desk after they had paid for their room.

Hotel initially defended eviction

The strike, involving 95 restaurant servers, bussers and hostesses at the café, is in the midst of its second week.

Workers have been without a contract for more than a year and decided to strike after their employer started clawing back tips to make up the difference when Ontario's minimum wage went up in January 2018, according to Workers United Canada Council spokesperson Ryan Hayes. The company says its position is that it is proposing a tip-sharing arrangement similar to what exists in other restaurants.

Such actions demonstrate an open hostility to labour unions and make your venue unsuitable for ... union affiliated events.- Tom Galivan , SEIU Local 2

Hayes also said the pair's eviction should raise questions for future guests.

"Are they saying, as a matter of policy going forward, union supporters are no longer welcome in their hotels?" he said. "It's really quite confusing and shocking."

In its earlier comments, the hotel defended the eviction. 

In a statement issued Tuesday, Vazquez said the company believes Workers United has sometimes "placed some of its staff" in local hotels to disrupt them.

"It is unfortunate that these guests participated in a private business affair between the union and the employer and interfered with other guests attempting to access the Rainforest [Café] and other nearby businesses," the statement said.

Other unions pulling out of events at hotel

Following the strike and the Tomlinsons' eviction, another union, SEIU Local 2, cancelled all of its reservations with Canadian Niagara Hotels, claiming the organization wasn't bargaining in good faith with workers.

"We are further disturbed by reports in local media outlets that Canadian Niagara Hotels recently barred guests from staying at your facility because they participated in a lawful picket line," wrote secretary treasurer Tom Galivan in a letter to the business.

"Such actions demonstrate an open hostility to labour unions and make your venue unsuitable for union or union-affiliated events."

The hotel responded in a statement, saying the cancellations will hurt Workers United's own unionized members employed at the hotel.


Dan Taekema is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: daniel.taekema@cbc.ca