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Aiming High: Hyatt Housekeepers Seek to Join Hotel's Corporate Board

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

While Michigan workers gained attention by protesting their state legislature's right-to-work law this week, in Illinois, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts housekeepers are aiming for a largely untested (at least in the United States) strategy for influencing their employer's decisionmaking: the Hyatt workers are trying to persuade Hyatt's board of directors to add one of their employee housekeepers to its corporate board.

On Tuesday in Chicago, 200 Hyatt housekeepers and other workers demonstrated outside Hyatt headquarters as part of their "Hyatt Hurts" campaign and presented a resolution to Hyatt leadership requesting worker representation on Hyatt's board.

As members of UNITE HERE, a union representing workers from the fast food, hotel, gaming, textile, and several other industries, the Hyatt workers have alleged that Hyatt holds them responsible for unreasonable amounts of work, including cleaning up to thirty rooms per day. In alignment with these claims, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Hyatt an ergonomic risk warning on April 25, 2012. In its warning letter, OSHA pointed out that Hyatt requires of its housekeepers "repeated heavy lifting, bending, twisting, elevated and extended reaches, and forceful gripping."

To help address these issues, the protesters seek to pressure Hyatt into reforming its board by including a worker. They presented the idea to Farley Kern, Hyatt's Vice President of Communications, on Tuesday, and are waiting for feedback about their proposal. Ms. Kern told RH Reality Check Thursday morning that she did deliver the communication that was given to her on Tuesday to Hyatt's Corporate Secretary, but that the workers' resolution did not follow the process outlined in Hyatt's bylaws, found here.

How much traction will this request to the Hyatt Board of Directors realistically receive? 


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