Chicago Hyatt Workers Join Nationwide Strikes

In an emblematic fight over the direction of our economy, today Hyatt workers in Chicago join thousands of Hyatt hotel workers in launching week-long strikes in cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. Workers from the Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Hyatt McCormick are participating in local strikes. By striking, workers are standing up for decent jobs for themselves and their families, but they are also fighting for the right to take a stand against an abusive employer that is destroying good jobs in their North American hotels.

Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers and imposed dangerous workloads on those housekeepers who remain. In July, Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers at the Park Hyatt Chicago during a brutal heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with temporary workers earning minimum wage.

Most notably, Hyatt has sparked controversy for its abuse of housekeepers. Injury rates for Hyatt housekeepers are high, and academic studies have shown that housekeeping can lead to debilitating injuries. Housekeepers at some Hyatts clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is typically required at union hotels. To date, OSHA or its state counterparts have issued 15 citations against the Hyatt at ten hotels and 3 citations against two of the Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors at two of those hotels, alleging violations of safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees. The agencies have proposed fines totaling $95,405.00 between Hyatt and its subcontractor.

“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 the socket,” says Angela Martinez, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency with 23 years of service. “We are hard-working women, not machines. I’m on strike because I want the right to stand up to Hyatt wherever it is abusing housekeepers.”

Hyatt workers have called for boycotts at 17 Hyatt properties and have led dozens of public demonstrations all across North America. Already, Hyatt has lost over $20 million in hotel business.

“Hyatt is one of the most abusive hotels in their treatment of housekeepers and has the worst record on subcontracting,” says Henry Tamarin, the President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “They refuse to budge on these important issues, and workers want the right to take on Hyatt wherever these abuses occur.”

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 1000 workers at the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt McCormick Place. Contracts for area Hyatt workers expired on August 31, 2009. This week of Hyatt strikes follows other work stoppages at Hyatt properties in Chicago, including a strike at the Park Hyatt on July 21, 2011, a strike at the Hyatt Regency on June 20, 2011, and a one-day strike at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont in September 20101. In May 2010, Hyatt Regency workers—led by more than 100 housekeepers—walked off the job, protesting worsening working conditions in housekeeping after a major hotel renovation.

Workers in each striking city have reached agreements with other major hotel employers, like Hilton and Starwood. This week’s strike affects approximately 3,000 unionized hotel workers at six hotel properties across North America, including the largest Hyatt property in the world—the Hyatt Regency Chicago.