Friday, September 25, 2009

Hotel Workers take the streets...

Here are some updates on the struggle of 6,000 Chicago hotel workers for a fair contract with 30 hotels in the Chicago area, straight from their union, UNITE-HERE, Local 1...

Hundreds arrested in civil disobedience action
Fighting layoffs and cuts, hospitality workers take a stand,
saying big corporations like Chicago‐based Hyatt have gone too far

(Chicago, IL) – Nearly 200 hospitality workers and community supporters were arrested today as part of a non-violent civil disobedience action in downtown Chicago. The action, witnessed by over 600 workers and community supporters, took place in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel amid an escalating local labor dispute and a growing public backlash against Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels for the recent firing of 100 Hyatt housekeepers in Boston. Hotel workers in San Francisco also staged a major civil disobedience action in conjunction today.

After months of layoffs and chronic understaffing, hospitality workers in Chicago and across the country are criticizing their employers for contributing to the nation’s unemployment problem. While companies like Chicago‐based Hyatt have taken home record profits in the last decade, many people who work for them are living in poverty. Now hospitality companies are using the economy as an excuse to further squeeze workers and communities—eliminating jobs, trying to roll back benefits, and getting a smaller pool of workers to risk injury by working harder and faster. Today in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco—workers are fighting back.

Wearing their uniforms and placards reading “I am not afraid” as they got arrested, workers sent a message that they will not allow companies to abuse the fear and uncertainty of the economic downturn to push workers backward. Participants in the arrest also included community leaders like Chicago Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward) and Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Area workers point to Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels as an emblem of how corporations are taking advantage of working people in tough times. In Boston on August 31, Hyatt Hotels fired 100 long term housekeepers and replaced them with low wage workers from a subcontractor, after telling the workers they were training “vacation” replacements. Locally, Hyatt has also eliminated jobs, laying off workers while having others work overtime to avoid paying benefits. Hyatt Regency Chicago laid off 199 of its 1020 workers (19.5%) from November 2008 to March 2009, while 46% of its staff worked overtime between January and April 2009.

“What the Hyatt did to those housekeepers in Boston is unthinkable,” says Claudette Evans, who works in the housekeeping department at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. “I’m getting arrested for those ladies, for myself, and my mother who’s also been a housekeeper at the Hyatt for 14 years, because our future, our health and our jobs depend on it.”

Earlier in the day, a delegation of 40 women working in Chicago hotels appealed to Hyatt owner Penny Pritzker, who was giving a talk at the Sheraton Chicago, to bring back the “Hyatt 100” housekeepers in Boston.

Nationwide, the hospitality industry has maintained its fundamental profitability by squeezing workers. History shows that these companies may refuse to bring people back to work, even as the economy rebounds. Nationwide, hotels cut staff by 17% when tourism was down after 9/11—and never brought jobs back when profits soared in the years to follow.

The action comes amid union contract negotiations, affecting more than 10,000 hotel, food service, and casino workers in the region and the national campaign to bring back the fired Hyatt 100 in Boston.

Fired Boston housekeeper appeals to Penny Pritzker
Housekeeper delegation calls on Hyatt Director to rehire terminated workers

(Chicago, IL) . Angela Norena, a fired housekeeper from the Hyatt Harborside Hotel in Boston, appealed to Hyatt Hotels director Penny Pritzker this morning at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers to reverse Hyatt’s termination of approximately one hundred housekeepers at three Boston-area hotels. Norena was joined by union housekeepers in a delegation of twenty women from a number of Chicago hotels in calling on Pritzker to rehire the Boston group. Pritzker refused to listen to Norena’s concerns.

On August 31, Hyatt fired 100 long term housekeepers in three Boston-area hotels and replaced them with low wage workers from a subcontractor after telling the workers they were training “vacation” replacements. The housekeepers, most of whom were women who made approximately $15 per hour with benefits, were replaced with workers making
close to minimum wage and with no benefits.

Meanwhile, Hyatt Hotels Corporation made $1.3 billion in profits from 2004 to 2008 and, as of August, is sitting on $1.2 billion in cash and cash equivalents. Hyatt is 85% owned by Chicago’s Pritzker family. Penny Pritzker is on Hyatt’s board of directors and is a first cousin of Hyatt chairman Thomas Pritzker. Penny Pritzker was at the Sheraton this morning to address
the 19th annual conference of the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry.

The former Boston housekeeper was disappointed by Penny Pritzker’s reaction, but will continue to fight for her and her coworkers’ jobs back. “She is on Hyatt’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Pritzker family” said Angela Norena, who worked as a housekeeper at the Hyatt Harborside Hotel for 15 years. “If anyone can make Hyatt do the right thing, it’s
Penny Pritzker.”

Hyatt has garnered national attention because of its actions in Boston. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has committed to direct all state employees not to use Hyatt when traveling or for other purposes if Hyatt does not reinstate the fired housekeepers.

Later this afternoon, nearly 200 hospitality workers and community supporters will be arrested as part of a non-violent civil disobedience action in downtown Chicago in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel. Area workers point to Hyatt Hotels as an emblem of how corporations are taking advantage of working people in tough times. Workers and community allies in San Francisco are also participating in a civil disobedience action today aimed at Hyatt.


  1. This whole Hyatt mess is getting out of hand and generating a lot of bad press, they must be really worried.

    Do we know how their business is going, I know its only been a couple of weeks now but it must be having an impact on sales.

  2. Apparently the company that got the contract is going to be paying their staff even less than the redundant housekeepers.

    Is there a minimum wage in the Sates, can they do that?