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Meet Obama's Anti-Labor, Subprime-Lending, Housekeeper-Mistreating Billionaire Nominee for Commerce Secretary

Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman interviews Aaron Mate and David Moberg on his article, "3 Troubling Things To Know About Billionaire Penny Pritzker."

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Aaron Mate´: David, also, as we’ve noted, Pritzker is a longtime member of the board of directors of the Hyatt Hotel chain and heir to the Hyatt fortune. Some Hyatt housekeepers say they clean as many as 30 rooms a day, getting paid as little as $2 per room. Workers at the Hyatt Andaz hotel in West Hollywood, California, have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over an electronic tracking system used to monitor their productivity. Al Jazeera recently spoke to Hyatt housekeeper and activist Cathy Youngblood about the worker’s conditions.

Cathy Youngblood: I’ve been crisscrossing the country talking to Hyatt employees in the different respective hotels around the country. We have things like we need proper tools and equipment, such as fitted sheets, lighter vacuum cleaners, adjustable tools. We do need for management to listen when we suggest a better way of doing things. We are the ones that work in the hotel. We are the front line. We are the first responders. And I don’t think any member of the board has worked in a hotel. So, if they would just sit down and listen to someone like me, I think they could learn a lot. Of course, I can learn a lot from them. But also, if you are a business person, wouldn’t you want to know what’s going on in a hotel?

Aaron Mate´:  That’s Cathy Youngblood. The housekeepers are represented by the union, UNITEHERE Local 11. David, do you think that this nomination is trying to send a message to unions?

David Moberg:  I don’t think it was intended as any kind of message to unions, necessarily. I think it represents a kind of almost callous disregard for the concerns that unions have, for the interests that the unions represent and for the importance of labor unions both to the overall economy and to the political fortunes of the Democratic Party. So I suspect it may not have been given a great deal of consideration. And, indeed, UNITE HERE, which eventually came out strongly in opposition to the nomination, had hesitated for a while about whether it was going to make a big campaign of it.

Amy Goodman: David Moberg, finally, Thursday, the confirmation hearing of Penny Pritzker, certainly the Republicans would have had a lot to ask Penny Pritzker. What did you think of their questioning? Not to mention the Democrats.

David Moberg: Well, I think that a lot of things were simply not pursued, and I think it represents a kind of deference that gets shown to people of great wealth in many of these situations by both parties. The Republicans, by inclination, are less likely to be grilling people about how they’ve accumulated their fortunes, and Democrats are vying for the support of the same group of rich people as much as they can. So I think that the softball questioning reflects this more troubling turn of the politics of the country away from thinking about broad interests of working people, not just of labor unions as institutions, and towards a kind of difference towards the rich. And that’s bad economic policy and bad politics, I think.

Amy Goodman: David Moberg, I want to thank you for being with us, senior editor at In These Times . We will link to your  article, "3 Troubling Things to Know About Billionaire Penny Pritzker."

This is  Democracy Now! When we come back, the legendary author, poet, activist, Alice Walker. Stay with us.


Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now! and the co-author of The Silenced Majority.

David Moberg is a senior editor of In These Times.