U.K. tourists evicted from Niagara Falls hotel for supporting striking café workers

A father and daughter from the United Kingdom say they feel "threatened" and "scared" after being evicted from a Niagara Falls hotel because they supported striking workers at the city's Rainforest Café while on vacation.

Hotel says pair 'interfered with other guests' trying to access the Rainforest Café

Alan Tomlinson and his daughter Lauren were evicted from their hotel in Niagara Falls after joining a strike protest at the nearby Rainforest Café on April 13. (Lauren Tomlinson/Facebook)

A vacationing father and daughter from the United Kingdom say they feel "threatened" and "scared" after being evicted from the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls because they supported striking workers at the nearby Rainforest Café.

The café and hotel are owned by the same parent company.

Alan Tomlinson, 61, says two security guards followed his daughter Lauren back from a rally to her hotel room on April 13.

"They stopped my daughter in the hotel and asked what she was doing there," he said in an email to CBC News. "[Security] told her she had to leave, as it was a conflict of interest and he would call the police if she did not."

Lauren, 21, refused to leave without her father, who said security followed her into an elevator and to their room, where they told him they were on private property and no longer welcome.

It is unfortunate that these guests participated in a private business affair between the union and the employer.- Sarah Vazquez, Canadian Niagara Hotels

The security guards also repeated their threat to call police, and added that the pair's car would be towed if they didn't go, according to Alan.

Despite arguing that nothing they had done was against the law, the Tomlinsons eventually agreed to leave, but say they were refused a refund, even though they had paid for their room.

Hotel says staff followed legal eviction protocol

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Canadian Niagara Hotels Inc., which operates both the hotel and café, said hotels around the world are sometimes required to "deal with guests who interfere with other guests' enjoyment" of facilities or operations.

Sarah Vazquez, vice-president of the organization's marketing department, said, "Each hotel has a security protocol for legally evicting a guest in such circumstances, as occurred here."

She also said the company believes that in the past, Workers United Canada Council, the union representing café workers, has sometimes "placed some of its staff in local hotels to disrupt their operations."

"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 and other nearby businesses."

 Alan described the hotel's response as "totally inaccurate" and a "poor attempt" at damage control.

"We never once 'interfered' with anyone," he said. "We handed out leaflets for an hour on Saturday and talked to people about the strike."

The pair eventually found another hotel to stay at, but Alan said they're still reeling after what happened.

"The experience of being evicted was traumatic; we felt threatened and scared."

95 workers on strike

The Tomlinsons say they arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on April 8. The next day, they encountered the striking workers rallying outside of the theme restaurant and started talking with them.

"We ... decided that when we passed by, we would chat and give them some moral support," Alan said.

That support included photos of Lauren and a sign stating "Respect Costs Nothing" shared on social media.

The strike, involving 95 restaurant servers, bussers and hostesses at the café, has just stretched into 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 minimum wage went up in January 2018, according to Workers United spokesperson Ryan Hayes.

He said the union believes Canadian Niagara Hotels owes both its workers and the Tomlinsons an apology, noting 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 asked. "It's really quite confusing and shocking."


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


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