Supreme Court Scrutiny of ‘Neutrality’ Pacts Could Be Another Blow to Unions

by Bruce Vail

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will accept a case for review next year on the use of labor-management “neutrality” agreements in union organizing campaigns. An anti-union decision from the high court would make labor organizing more difficult and threaten labor organizations at a national level, labor experts say.

At issue are the so-called neutrality agreements between unions and employers in which the employer agrees beforehand not to actively oppose the union organizing process at a specific workplace. Typically, such agreements specify that both sides refrain from inflammatory or divisive tactics, and that the workers be allowed to choose or oppose union representation free from any pressure or intimidation from either side. Continue reading

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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Bad Karma at Hyatt Regency San Francisco

by Carl Finamore

Flyer distributed to San Francisco yoga studios, urging support from community.

Flyer distributed to San Francisco yoga studios, urging support from community.

Each year some 2000 yoga enthusiasts assemble at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco, California for “a great convergence of yogis of all ages and backgrounds” states convention sponsor Yoga Journal. The extremely liberal and tolerant “city by the bay” seems the perfect spot to spiritually and intellectually delve into yoga principles of social service and physical purification.

“But there is one huge problem,” according to 19-year veteran yoga instructor Sri Louise. “There is a huge disconnect with our ethical values by scheduling a convention at a union boycotted hotel that has a lousy safety record and mistreats it employees.”

A January 17 late afternoon picket by around 150 UNITE-HERE Local 2 supporters made this point loud and clear.

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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 the Battle Between Hotel Workers and Hyatt is Important

by Julius G. Getman

For over three years UNITE HERE, the union that represents hotel workers, and Hyatt Corp. have been engaged in a fierce escalating struggle. The union has recently called for a boycott of Hyatt.

The confrontation between Hyatt and UNITE HERE is part of the world wide struggle for basic human rights, particularly for immigrant workers. It is important that liberals, progressives, workers, and those who believe in economic fairness support the boycott and let Hyatt know of it.

Immigrant workers are the backbone of the hotel industry and when they do not have the backing of a union they are regularly and shamefully exploited. Hyatt, where the majority of workers are not unionized, is one of the most flagrant exploiters. Where its workers are not unionized the pay scale is low and the work load, particularly on room attendants is a constant danger to their health, both physical and emotional.

San Antonio, where Hyatt has two hotels on the famed Riverwalk, is an example. Its housekeepers are saddled with enormous work loads of up to 30 rooms per day roughly double the work load of unionized hotel workers in Las Vegas. Many of its older workers suffer from chronic back arm and neck injuries. Given the workload this is not surprising.

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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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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.

The Longest Strike in the U.S.

by Tom Broderick

Photo: UniteHere

The longest current strike in America continues. The rank and file of UNITE-HERE! Local 1 voted to rally on June 15 at the Congress Hotel to mark the ninth year of their strike. This is 3,285 days.

In his speech at the end of the rally, Henry Tamarin, President of Local 1, referred to the usual suspects being present again. Some of the groups that were on the pavement included Interfaith Worker Justice, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Several unions were represented by individuals wearing their union colors. The giant inflated rats were there as well. Tamarin also mentioned another group of usual suspects — the Chicago Police Department., some of whom had been at all the previous rallies.

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Unions Back Obama’s Stand for Marriage Equality

AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee and Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders released a statement applauding President Obama’s message. They said:

“President Obama’s announcement today recognizes a fundamental American right – that every citizen is entitled to respect and dignity, and the equal protection of our laws.  For too long, lesbian and gay Americans have been denied the right to marry the person they love, raise a family and live as equal citizens in our country.”

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The 99 Percent Takes Office: Lessons From a Rhode Island Special Election

by Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

If labor and other progressive groups are going to rebuild an economy that works for the 99 percent in America, they need to do great organizing in workplaces and communities and they also need to build deep coalitions among themselves. But that’s not enough.

They also need to translate their organizing muscle into political power. And that means looking at electoral strategies in a new way.

The progressive victories in this November’s elections were inspiring and important, but they were essentially defensive. We fended off Republican attacks in Ohio, Mississippi and Maine, but we need to be winning pro-active campaigns, too. We need to be able to use electoral politics to reinforce our organizing strategies.

We often elect lesser-evil politicians and send them off in the vague hope that they will do the right thing once taking office. But we have seen time and time again, that even when we have friends in elected positions, they often end up holding the grassroots constituencies that got them elected at arm’s length. Politicians face huge pressures from corporate interests once in power and, consequently, just having a “D” after their name does not guarantee that they will take tough stands on behalf of working people. We don’t need friends in office; we need champions.

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