Hyatt Workers Begin Week-Long Strike in Four Cities
The Hyatt hotel chain was last seen offering a weak apology for turning a heat lamp on workers picketing outside the Park Hyatt Chicago. But of course Hyatt hasn't addressed the reasons workers were picketing to begin with, and Thursday Unite Here announced a week-long strike against Hyatt in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu, citing Hyatt's abysmal injury rates, dangerous workloads and replacement of longtime housekeepers with low-paid temporary workers.
Contracts for striking workers in Chicago and San Francisco expired in August 2009, in Los Angeles in November 2009, and in Honolulu in June 2010. Workers in each of these cities have reached agreements with other major hotel employers, like Hilton and Starwood.
For its part, Hyatt claims to be doing the right thing:
“Unfortunately, this work stoppage could have been avoided if the local union had accepted the idential wage and benefits package they already accepted from Hilton, Starwood and InterContinental,” [a hotel manager] said. “It is unclear why the union is refusing to help give our associaties the benefit increases they have earned and deserved....We look forward to a quick resolution to this action so our associates can return to work as some of the best paid hotel associates in the city.”
Wages and benefits are an important part of any union contract, of course. But when you're talking about a hotel chain with some of the worst injury rates in the business, maybe, just maybe, wages and benefits aren't the only important thing. And according to Unite Here, the contracts signed by other hotel chains address working conditions and job outsourcing. Hyatt has not made a reasonable offer on those fronts.
Unionized Hyatt workers are also taking action to pressure Hyatt to adopt a less hostile stance toward workers organizing in non-union Hyatt locations and to get the right to stand with workers at other locations—this strike isn't just about what's happening in a few hotels, but across the entire chain. As Antonia Cortez, one of the striking workers, says,
I've been cleaning rooms for Hyatt for 35 years. They keep adding weight to the beds and the job is getting harder and harder. I have chronic pain in my shoulders and elbows from performing the same difficult task over and over. This job has damaged my body, and I clean just 14 rooms a day. In some cities, Hyatt makes housekeepers clean 30 rooms in one day! I'm on strike because I want the right to take action for all Hyatt housekeepers, no matter where they work. We all work for the same company. We should all have the right to stand up for each other. [Emphasis added]
In addition to the strike, Unite Here has called a boycott of some Hyatt hotels.