Unions called for a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels, contending the hotel chain is abusing its workers, particularly housekeepers.
The boycott, organized by Unite Here, a union representing housekeepers, has been endorsed by groups ranging from the NFL Players Association to the National Organization of Women.
“Unite Here’s claims are an attempt to boost membership by pressuring Hyatt to allow the union to organize more hotels through the intimidating ‘card check’ process,” Hyatt states in a full-page ad in today’s Washington Post. “We believe our associates have the right to a secret ballot. Last year, we petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold supervised secret-ballot elections at our non-union hotels. The union flatly refused to participate.”
The campaign against Hyatt puts President Barack Obama in an awkward spot since the family that owns the Chicago-based hotel chain, the Pritzkers, were big supporters of the president in 2008. Penny Pritzker chaired the Obama campaign’s finance committee that year, and reportedly was considered for Commerce secretary. She hasn’t taken an active role in the president’s re-election campaign.
Labor unions are key to the Democratic Party’s success at the polls, but this year the AFL-CIO isn’t hosting any major events at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. It instead plans to emphasize its own independent political efforts.
The Democratic Party, however, remains sensitive to union concerns: No Hyatts are on the list of Charlotte hotels that are hosting state delegations.
At a media event today at the National Press Club, John Wilhelm, president of hotel workers union Unite Here, said Hyatt “has quite purposefully chosen to position itself as the major hotel company that is driving conditions for all of its employees, but especially its housekeepers, to the low road.”
Wilhelm contends Hyatt forces housekeepers at non-union hotels to clean twice as many rooms as housekeepers clean in union hotels. As a result, he contends, Hyatt housekeepers have higher injury rates than their competitors.
Housekeeping is hard work — it requires lifting 100-pound mattresses, and scrubbing bathroom floors on your hands and knees, one housekeeper noted at the press conference.
This hard work has led to high turnover, Wilhelm claims, and Hyatt has begun to subcontract its housekeeping departments to temporary labor agencies in response. The hotel company also is “running a textbook, aggressive anti-union campaign” at hotels where workers are trying to organize, he said.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said housekeepers are “the unsung heroes” behind conventions and day-to-day business in the U.S.
“We are going to make sure that this company, the Hyatt company, does the right thing by these workers,” Trumka said.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told housekeepers that they will have “2,000 big brothers” — pro football players — on their side in this struggle.
Hyatt contends it has “deep respect” for its workers. It received the 2012 Gallup Great Workplace Award, and its hotels made media Best Places To Work lists in several cities.
The boycott of Hyatt hotels, it added, “will have a direct and negative impact on our associates, who depend on business in their hotels for their livelihood.”
The Business Journals by Kent Hoover, Washington Bureau Chief
Edited by : William Hurley