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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Hyatt Workers Take on Most Abusive Employer in Hotel Industry

by Julia Wong, UNITE HERE local 2

On September 8, 2011, 3000 Hyatt hotel workers across the nation walked off the job and traded in their mops and brooms for picket signs and bullhorns. The strikers, including 700 San Francisco workers at the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency hotels, are demanding the right to help themselves and other Hyatt workers across the United States contend with an abusive employer, intent on destroying decent jobs. Specifically, Hyatt workers are demanding the right to picket, strike, and boycott in support of other Hyatt workers to organize, get contracts, or protest abuses, wherever they may occur.

Hyatt has distinguished itself as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Victoria Guillen, a dishwasher at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco, recently revealed Hyatt’s attempt to fire her when she could not return to work three days after a C-section. In July, Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers in Chicago during a brutal heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with temporary workers at far lower rates of pay.

In particular, Hyatt has been criticized for its abuse of housekeepers. Injury rates for Hyatt housekeepers are high, and academic studies have shown housekeeping to be dangerous work that can lead to debilitating injuries. Housekeepers at some Hyatts clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is typically required at union hotels. To date, OSHA or its state counterparts have issued 15 citations against the Hyatt at ten hotels and three citations against one of the Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors at one of those hotels, alleging violations of safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees. The agencies have proposed fines totaling $95,405.00 between Hyatt and its subcontractor.

35-year Grand Hyatt housekeeper Antonia Cortez:

I have chronic pain in my shoulders and elbows, 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.

Since Thursday, workers at the Grand Hyatt have maintained rousing picket lines twenty-four hours a day.  The strikers have been joined by supporters from other unions, religious leaders, and community allies, such as Pride at Work and the ANSWER Coalition. Hyatt workers will close out the strike on Wednesday with a Solidarity March from Union Square to the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency hotels to celebrate the successful strike and kick off the next phase of the campaign. 

Says Cortez:

It will probably take us a few days to clean up the mess the managers made of the hotel while we were out. Then we’re jumping right back into the fight.

Posted on 09/13/2011Permalink

More posts by Julia Wong

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