Nearly 1,000 Hyatt employees around Chicago are still protesting today as part of a week-long strike that began on Thursday, drawing attention to a two year struggle of garnering a new contract that addresses working conditions. Workers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu also formed picket lines outside their hotels.
Housekeepers work loads continue to increase and the hotel chain often uses minimum wage temp workers to replace union employees. “Two years ago, the Hyatt Regency renovated the hotel and brought in larger, heavier beds. It makes my job much more difficult. I can’t lift the mattress because my left arm feels like it’s coming out of socket. We are hard-working women, not machines,” said Angela Martinez, a Hyatt housekeeper with 23 years experience.
Even in a tough economy it might be easier on the body and mind to move on to a new job. Twenty year housekeeping veteran Francine Jones disputes that notion: “That would be easy. It’s a copout. I’ve been working here a long time and we’re like a family. So just to pick up and say I’m going to move on so I can have something easier versus fighting for what’s right. If I leave somebody else is gotta come behind me and why should they be a part of that abuse. I’ll and fight so when I leave I know I got some justice for someone behind me.”
Negotiations have stalled but both sides continue to come to the table. A Hyatt spokesperson contends the hotel is offering the same wages and benefits as the Hilton and Starwood negotiated two years ago.
“Hyatt is one of the most abusive hotels in the their treatment of housekeepers and has the worst record on subcontracting,” said Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE HERE Local 1 in a prepared statement. “They refuse to budge on these important issues and workers want the right to take on Hyatt wherever these abuses occur.”
According to the union, OSHA and state counterparts have issued 15 citations against ten different Hyatt hotels as well as another three against two of the hotel’s subcontractors. Altogether the proposed fines total $95,405.
Local 1 represents about 1,000 workers at the Hyatt Regency, at 151 E. Wacker Drive, and the McCormick Place Hotel, at 2233 S. Martin Luther King Drive. Park Hyatt hotel gained national attention after management turned on heat lamps on striking workers in July. The hotel apologized but the incident has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Images: Aaron Krager