UNITE HERE Local 1 members kicked off what they bill as a week-long global boycott of Hyatt Hotel Corp. yesterday, organizing rallies in coordination with hotel housekeepers across the country. The protests started yesterday with a demonstration outside downtown Chicago’s Hyatt Regency.
Local 1 organizer Carly Karmel claims that, “The rally marked the largest escalation for our ongoing campaign for basic worker rights at Hyatt.”
UNITE HERE and Hyatt, a Chicago-based company headed by the Pritzker family with 488 sites across the world, have had a prolonged dispute over both rights for unionized workers and efforts to organize non-union housekeepers. A similar boycott happened in cities across the country last September.
But the two sides appear more at odds than ever. For example, UNITE HERE has touted a national campaign to brand Hyatt “The worst employer in America.”
Housekeepers represented by Local 1 have not had a contract since 2009. One worker concern is that the hotel chain will replace them with subcontractors, which is precisely what Hyatt did in 2009 with housekeepers at their Boston hotels.
Then, there are a number of concerns that Hyatt overworks housekeepers without concern for their health. Housekeepers deserve “simple tools that keep them from getting injured on the job, such as long-handed mops and fitted sheets,” Karmel says.
No fitted sheets means “lifting mattresses that weigh hundreds of pounds,” Karmel points out.
John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE, gave a national voice to these concerns at a Washington, D.C. press conference Monday, stating that Hyatt is driving hotel conditions “to the low road.”
Wilhelm claimed that Hyatt workers have to clean 28 rooms in their daily shift while, “In a standard union hotel in North America, a housekeeper does 14 to 15 rooms.”
Hyatt, meanwhile, has launched their own public campaign, placing a full-page ad in the Washington Post Monday “to set the record straight” about the UNITE HERE campaign.
The campaign is “not about creating a better workplace” but rather an attempt “to boost union membership at non-Hyatt hotels,” according to a company statement.
The Post ad (PDF) goes so far as to make the claim that Hyatt, not UNITE HERE, has the true workers interests in mind. “Our union associates are being used in the union leaders’ self-serving campaign to increase membership and dues,” the ad reads.
Image: UNITE HERE