Decrying that Hyatt is the “worst employer in the hotel industry,” Hyatt employees from four cities nationwide–Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu—have launched what they are claiming to be a weeklong strike.
“By striking, workers are standing up for decent jobs for themselves and their families, but they are also fighting for the right to take a stand against an abusive employer that is destroying good jobs in their North American hotels,” said UNITE HERE, a union representing 250,000 hotel and other hospitality workers throughout North America.
UNITE HERE contends “Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers and imposed dangerous workloads on those housekeepers who remain. 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 earning minimum wage.”
According to UNITE HERE, the injury rates for Hyatt housekeepers are high, and academic studies have shown that housekeeping 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. “”Hyatt is abusing housekeepers in Los Angeles and across the country. I am on strike today—not just for a decent contract—but to fight for our right stand up to Hyatt wherever this giant company is attacking workers,” says Cathy Youngblood, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, California.
UNITE HERE! Local 5 said it reached agreements in March 2011 with other hotels, including those operated by Hilton and Starwood, with a wage and benefits package identical to the offer from Hyatt; however, the union rejected the Hyatt offer and has not allowed its members to vote on it.
UNITE HERE added that Hyatt workers have called for boycotts at 17 Hyatt properties and have led dozens of public demonstrations all across North America. It is estimated that Hyatt has already lost over $20 million in hotel business as a result of the boycott.
“Hyatt workers are waging a crucial struggle,” says John Wilhelm, the president of UNITE HERE. “In the face of widening income inequality and the systematic eradication of the American middle class, Hyatt workers are bravely fighting for the ability to stand up for one another in contending with a global giant like Hyatt.”
In Honolulu, Hyatt Regency Waikiki workers commenced their weeklong strike Thursday morning at 3am, prompting the property’s management to issue a statement saying that the hotel will be doing business as usual with non-union workers and management filling in.
“We have implemented contingency plans to staff our hotel with non-union employees and management personnel to assist guests during their stay,” Hyatt Regency Waikiki general manager Jerry Westenhaver said. “Our associates are the heart and soul of our workplace. We’re disappointed that the union leadership is holding our associates’ new contract hostage in order to gain leverage for an organizing effort at non-union Hyatt hotels on the mainland.”
He added: “It is dismaying that the union is refusing to allow our associates to enjoy the pay and benefits increases they have earned and deserve. We look forward to a quick resolution to this action so our associates can return to work and continue to provide for their families.”
On the issue the housekeeper abuse, the management at Hyatt Regency Waikiki said: “Housekeepers at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki have a workload that is similar to other hotels in Hawaii. In addition, Hyatt conducts new hire safety training, ongoing departmental safety trainings, and daily safety inspections. The hotel regularly posts safety topics and associates conduct pre-shift stretching. There is also a safety committee and a nurse practitioner for safety and injury assessment.”
“This is not an employee issue; it’s a union issue,” Westenhaver told eTN about the Waikiki strike. “The union leadership is leveraging our associates to grow their membership at non-union Hyatt hotels on the mainland, and they’re holding up the pay and benefits increases our associates have earned and deserved.”
According to the management of Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the last negotiation sessions between Hyatt Regency Waikiki and the union were in late June 2011. The Hyatt Regency Waikiki said it has “tried to continue negotiating with the union, and would like to do so as soon as possible to quickly resolve any remaining issues and finalize an agreement.”
eTN also asked the management at Hyatt Regency Waikiki if they are prepared in the event that the strike takes place longer than a week. The management said, “The hotel has implemented contingency plans to operate normally during the strike regardless of its duration.”
Filed Under: HR
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