Hilton Hotels Look Back to the Future

By Carl Finamore

 Mike Casey flanked by Mayor Lee (far L) & Michael Dunne (far R)

Mike Casey flanked by Mayor Lee (far L) & Michael Dunne (far R)

All of us at one time or another had things pounded into our heads so often that ultimately a light bulb goes off. Finally, one or more of our experiences, good or bad, influences our behavior.

This is not new. The esteemed 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard had a penchant for quotable parables and said it this way: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

You might say this is exactly what happened to management at the private equity Blackstone Group-owned Hilton Hotels. After years of strikes, picket lines and boycotts haunting the industry, Hilton decided all the strife was bad for business.

The result is a long-term agreement extending to August 2018 between Hilton and hotel union, UNITE-HERE. It covers six cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Toronto.

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Fired Hyatt Workers Win Their Jobs Back

by Bruce Vail

L to R: Union supporter Angel Castro stands with Hyatt workers Mike Jones and Tarrance Taylor, who were fired, then reinstated.

L to R: Union supporter Angel Castro stands with Hyatt workers Mike Jones and Tarrance Taylor, who were fired, then reinstated.

BALTIMORE—Three hotel workers fired last year for pro-union activism at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore are back on the job this week as part of a January 26 deal to settle unfair labor practice charges brought by UNITE HERE.

Mike Jones, the last of the fired employees to resume his old job, reported for work this week. He’s eager to restart his union organizing activities, he tells Working In These Times. (The story of Jones’ firing and his efforts to win his job back were the subject of a Working In These Times story in November of last year.)

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Hotel Housekeeper Says Adding Her to Corporate Board Means Adding Compassion

UniteHere

(December 11, 2012) In a conference call to bloggers, Cathy Youngblood, a 61-year-old housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, said that there were many things she enjoyed about being a housekeeper.

“I get to meet the world,” she said. “I have a real bond with the other women I work with. I also take pride in working in a field where I give comfort and pleasure to people when the travel.”

Youngblood is one of many Hyatt housekeepers who will be asking Hyatt Hotels to add a hotel worker to their board of directors this week. The hotel workers feel the impact of having “someone like me” to also represent the hotel would create a better company for both employees and shareholders.

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Housekeepers urge Hyatt to add hotel worker to its Board of Directors

In demonstrations nationwide, workers say “someone like me” will make Hyatt a better company for employees and shareholders alike

someonelikeme[Chicago, Ill.] In recent years, Hyatt has faced tough criticism for its record of labor abuses. Now housekeepers say they have a simple solution to move Hyatt in a new direction. In events nationwide this week, Hyatt workers are urging the company to add a hotel worker to its board of directors. Workers say Hyatt would be better off if someone who served hotel guests at some point in the last decade actually had a say in how the company is run.

On Tuesday, national actions kicked off at Hyatt headquarters in Chicago, where hotel workers  submitted a resolution to the company for consideration at the annual shareholders meeting in June 2013. Hyatt workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Baltimore, Phoenix, Honolulu and Seattle are also holding events this week. Holding signs and speaking before large crowds, housekeepers say “someone like me” would make Hyatt a better company, for workers and shareholders alike. Democratic corporate governance structures that include workers have been successful in European countries for decades.

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Why Boycotting Hyatt Is More Than Just a Union Issue: An Interview With Activist Cleve Jones

by Amy Dean

(Photo: Eric Wagner / Flickr)

If the labor movement is to have a future in the United States, it will depend on its ability to show how the issues it champions are not just the concerns of a narrow special interest group. Rather, it must demonstrate that the well-being of all Americans depends upon the fight for dignified working conditions, living wages and necessities like health care. For this reason, campaigns in which unions reach out widely to allies beyond their own membership are critical.

Recently UNITE HERE, the hotel, restaurant and casino workers union, launched a major campaign called Hyatt Hurts. The campaign is encouraging people to boycott Hyatt hotels in support of housekeepers and other workers. As the union argues: “Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Hyatt has abused its housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those who remain.”

Recognizing that a drive against a major multinational corporation would require broad support, both domestically and internationally, the union rallied an unusually large number of allies to aid in the campaign. Outside of other unions, the Hyatt boycott has drawn endorsements from the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, City Life/Vida Urbana, National People’s Action, the California Council of Churches, the Sierra Club and many others.

Cleve Jones, who is now on the campaign’s staff, embodies the effort to create connections across boundaries. A now-legendary LGBTQ rights activist, Jones was a friend of, and collaborator with, Harvey Milk, the member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country. (In the Hollywood version of the story, director Gus Van Sant’s Milk, Jones was played by Emile Hirsch.) Jones went on to co-found the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and to conceive of the idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. In recent years, Jones has worked with UNITE HERE to build relationships between the labor movement and community allies, including the LGBTQ community.

I talked with him about how the Hyatt Hurts campaign is approaching coalition-building, and about the wider lessons that progressives can draw from the boycott effort.

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Rocking the global Hyatt boycott with Tom Morello

Hyatt housekeepers are getting hurt at work. Some need surgery or have become permanently disabled from lifting mattresses and scrubbing bathroom floors. That’s why we want you to stand with them and vote Hyatt the Worst Hotel Employer in America at: http://votehyattworst.org

Why is Hyatt the worst? Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with temp workers earning minimum wage. Hyatt housekeepers have heavy workloads that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt has fired women shortly after they have spoken out about abuse and indignities at work. And Hyatt even turned heat lamps on workers protesting these conditions during a brutal Chicago heat wave.

A Message from Hyatt Housekeepers

Hyatt Housekeepers

Housekeepers nationwide need your help. If you’ve ever stayed at a Hyatt and had a good night’s sleep, you have a housekeeper to thank for your fresh sheets and fluffed pillows. But invisible to hotel guests is the pain and hardship that housekeepers endure to provide us with an atmosphere of comfort and luxury.

That’s Hyatt housekeepers have launched a global boycott of Hyatt. Please take two seconds to support them by voting Hyatt the Worst Hotel Employer in America at VoteHyattWorst.Org

Worldwide, we are calling on two million people to take a stand and Vote Hyatt Worst. By joining together, we will urge Hyatt to change its ways.

Chicago DSA Joins Hyatt Picket Line

by Bob Roman

Chicago DSA members and friends at the Hyatt Regency West Tower picket line on Saturday afternoon, September 10. Maria Svart, DSA's National Director, is 2nd from the left.

UNITE HERE  recently  called a one day strike against selected Hyatt hotel facilities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. In Chicago, the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt McCormick were being struck. The last contract at these Hyatt facilities expired in August, 2009.

At the Saturday, September 10 Chicago DSA membership meeting, we decided to join the picket line at the Hyatt Regency after the meeting concluded. Six of us, including DSA’s new national director Maria Svart, joined the picket line. We also had a second delegation marching at the Regency on Sunday morning.

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Hyatt Hotel Slams Week of Strikes

By Carl Finamore

Victoria Guillen with her lovely daughter on picket duty at San Francisco Grand Hyatt

Hyatt Hotels wasted no time and pulled no punches in condemning UNITE-HERE’s seven-day strike against six hotels in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Waikiki.

Spokesperson for San Francisco Hyatt Hotels, Peter Hillan, told me on the first day of the strike that “we offered UNITE-HERE’s Local 2 the same contract they signed with the Hilton, Starwood and Intercontinental but the union leadership rejected our offer. This strike is nothing but street theatre that hurts our associates.”

“Oh yeah,” responded 15-year Grand Hyatt employee Aurolyn Rush when learning of Hillan’s dismissive remark, “then why are we all here,” as her arms extended proudly to the active picket line outside her hotel.

All 700 workers walked off the job on September 8 at the two downtown Hyatt hotels in the “City by the Bay” with the union indicating over 2000 workers participating in the strike nationally.

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Bostonians Picket for Fired Hyatt Housekeepers

by David Duhalde and Paul Garver

On a blistering cold Tuesday noon, nearly 100 workers and allies gathered outside of the Cambridge Hyatt on the shore of the Charles River. The picketers represented the core of a united democratic opposition in the USA, including half a dozen DSA members, hard hats from the activist Carpenters Local 40, drum-beating leaders of faith and their parishioners, Jobs with Justice student interns, elected labor leaders and a Cambridge city councilor, and–most importantly –many Hyatt workers. Despite its current dispute with UNITE-HERE, an elected SEIU official came to show solidarity as well. Continue reading