Women supporting Hyatt housekeepers send delegation to hotel to help workers clean rooms

Responding to injury reports, community says, “If Hyatt won’t ease their housekeepers’ burden, we will”

Responding to reports of work-related injuries in Hyatt’s housekeeping departments, a group of 50 women from across the city of Chicago rolled up their sleeves to go into the Hyatt Regency Chicago and help the housekeepers clean their rooms.

The delegation, led by professors, housekeepers and Lynda DeLaForgue, the Co-Chair of Citizen Action, comes just one week after housekeepers at the Hyatt Regency and several other Hyatt properties in Chicago filed complaints with OSHA about work-related injuries that can lead, in some instances, to permanent disability. The delegation was met at the door by Hyatt management and security, who rejected the offer by the community to help the workers. Teems of housekeepers and other hotel workers peered through the windows waving to supporters outside carrying mops and fitted sheets, who chanted “we want to help” until they were ushered away by police.

“Housekeeping is hard work, and many ladies are having accidents, slipping on wet floors or hurting their hands and wrists lifting heavy mattresses,” says Ofelia Martinez, who works in housekeeping at the Park Hyatt. “My message to Hyatt today is stop pushing us to work so hard, especially non-union Hyatt housekeepers who are cleaning 25-30 rooms a day. We are not animals, we are humans.”

A major peer-reviewed study of hotel worker injuries at 50 U.S. hotels operated by the five largest U.S. hotel companies was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (AJIM) earlier this year. By company, housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels in the AJIM study had the highest injury rate of those hotels studied.

Injuries in the hotel industry disproportionately affect women. Nearly all housekeepers are women, and a research study involving the five largest hotel companies in the U.S. shows housekeepers to have the highest injury rates.

The women leading the delegation into the hotel are bringing with them supplies for the housekeepers that reduce some of the strain associated with housekeeping work. Supplies include common sense solutions to the problems associated with housekeeping work, such as fitted sheets to reduce the number of times that women must lift mattresses weighing nearly 100 lbs. to tuck sheets, and long-handled mops, so workers do not have to get down on their hands and knees to clean the floors.

“We come today with mops, rubber gloves, and our compassion,” says Virginia Parks, an Associate Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. “We’re here to say to the Hyatt housekeepers, you are not alone in your struggle.”

In May 2010, over one hundred housekeepers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago stopped work for several hours, protesting worsening working conditions in housekeeping.

Campus Dining Workers at Loyola University Chicago Win Union

Chicago – After months of organizing, over 200 campus dining workers at Loyola University Chicago have won union representation, choosing to join UNITE HERE Local 1.

“I feel blessed. A union means a better life for me and my family,” said Janet Irving, a Loyola campus dining worker and member of the worker organizing committee that had been building support for the union at Loyola, one of the leading Catholic Jesuit universities in the nation.

In October, a majority of Loyola campus dining workers, with support from Loyola faculty, students, and clergy approached the employer about a fair process to choose a union. The company agreed to a process and recognized UNITE HERE Local 1 on Tuesday, November 16th.

The campus dining workforce at Loyola comes from all over the world, with 16 different countries of origin. Many dining workers at Loyola have served the student and faculty community for decades.

With UNITE HERE, the Loyola workers join the leading union of food service workers in North America, joining dining workers from over 100 campuses across the United States and Canada. In Chicago, the Loyola workers join dining workers at DePaul University who are also members of UNITE HERE Local 1 and recently won a great new contract, which included significant improvements in wages and healthcare benefits as well as protections for immigrant workers.

The worker organizing committee at Loyola will enter into contract negotiations with their employer in the coming months. For now, they are celebrating. “I love taking care of the students in the dining halls, and I feel great that now I will get to do it as a union member,” Loyola dining service worker Eva Rangel said.


UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana. UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.

# # #

Hyatt housekeepers in Chicago and 7 other cities to file injury complaints with OSHA

On Tuesday November 9, Hyatt hotel housekeepers in eight cities across the U.S. are filing injury complaints with OSHA, reporting repetitive motion and other kinds of injuries sustained on the job. The landmark multi-city filing at 12 Hyatt properties that employ over 3,500 workers is the first of its kind in the private sector. A major peer-reviewed study of hotel worker injuries at 50 U.S. hotels operated by the five largest U.S. hotel companies was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (AJIM) earlier this year. By company, housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels in the AJIM study had the highest injury rate of those hotels studied.

The hazards associated with hotel work and service sector jobs more broadly have been largely invisible and unregulated. Serious injuries can happen slowly over time, through the repetition of certain tasks. Nevertheless, the long-term impact can result in debilitating injuries that in some instances require surgical intervention, physical therapy, or lead to permanent disability, like the loss of the full use of one’s arm.

The AJIM study found the highest injury rates among hotel workers to be in housekeeping. The study also indicated alarming differences in hotel injuries by race and gender, showing that women hotel workers were 50% more likely to be injured than men, and Hispanic women had almost double the risk of injury of their white female counterparts. The variation in injury rates across the major companies suggests room for remedies. Housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels in the AJIM study had the highest injury rate of those hotels studied, with a risk of injury almost twice that of the company with the lowest rate.

At some Hyatt properties, room attendants are required to clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is commonly considered standard in the industry. Speeding up work by raising the room quota or adding room amenities can strain the body and lead to more accidents, like slipping on wet bathroom floors or tripping over furniture.

“Cleaning 25 to 30 rooms a day and making beds ‘hospital style’ demands working fast and lifting heavy mattresses,” says Maria Carmen Dominguez, who worked at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio as a room attendant before getting a broken tendon and permanently injuring her shoulder. “After surgery and months of physical therapy, I am still in pain anytime I lift my arm, even just to get dressed or brush my daughter’s hair.”
Dominguez also alleges that workers are discouraged from reporting injuries for fear of punishment, and that management has created a monetary disincentive for reporting injuries called “Safety Bingo,” with a lottery prize for housekeepers that grows every day that no injury is reported.
The complaints recommend to OSHA a number of remedies to reduce the health risks associated with housekeeping work. These recommendations include: fitted sheets to reduce the number of times that women must lift 100-plus pound mattresses to tuck sheets; long-handled mops and dusters, so workers do not have to get down on their hands and knees to clean the floors or climb bathtubs to reach high surfaces; and reasonable room quotas, so women no longer have to rush to finish rooms, risking slips and falls.
“There are common sense changes like fitted sheets, mops, or caps on daily room quotas that can make the difference between healthy bodies and hurt housekeepers,” says occupational health expert Gary Orr. “It is critical that we explore ways of making hotel work safe to reduce the high rates of injury that we see among housekeepers. Corporate-wide solutions are not only needed but are the most effective and less costly as they can be applied to multiple worksites.”

Complaints were filed by workers in Hyatt Hotels in the following cities: San Antonio, Chicago, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Honolulu, and Indianapolis.


DePaul dining workers ratify new contract

Campus dining workers at DePaul University, members of UNITE HERE Local 1, voted to ratify a new contract on October 21. Their new agreement with Chartwells brings significantly improved wages, affordable family health care benefits, and language that protects immigrant workers.

“Even with all the obstacles that we went through, we stood together, and we got a great contract,” said Chanteen Hardaway, a campus dining worker at DePaul.

DePaul students supported the workers with a campus-wide Living Wage campaign.

For more information on the food service industry on college and university campuses, visit the Stir It Up campaign’s website.

Hilton workers strike, protesting $180M Hilton bailout

Chicago workers join wave of Hilton strikes seeking to “Share the Recovery”

(Chicago, IL) – Citywide union hotel contracts expired more than a year ago, and today hotel workers at the Chicago Hilton are walking off the job, launching a three-day strike protesting Hilton’s efforts to lock workers into the recession. Outraged that Hilton finagled $180 million in bailout funds but is still squeezing workers, hundreds are picketing today, wearing signs that read “Taxpayers on Strike”. The strike in Chicago join strikes at the world’s largest Hiltons in Honolulu and San Francisco, which began earlier this week.

Hilton Worldwide, owned by one of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms – Blackstone – is taking unfair advantage of its workers and the American taxpayers. Hilton got $180 million of bailout funds not meant for wealthy hotel owners when the Federal Reserve wrote off some debt Hilton owed U.S. taxpayers. Meanwhile, Hilton wants lock workers into cheap recession contracts even as hotels rebound.

Hilton is on the forefront in the hotel industry in Chicago this contract cycle of pushing a program that would dramatically increase the room quota for housekeepers, lowering the standard of cleanliness for guests, speeding up work, and eliminating jobs. Given the physical nature of the work, such a speed up could result in more injuries for housekeepers who already face difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions.

“Hilton’s business is coming back, but it seems like they want housekeepers like me to live in the recession forever,” says Sherri Steverson, a room attendant at the Chicago Hilton downtown, one of Hilton Hotels’ largest owned hotels. “The bailout money was supposed to protect jobs, but Hilton is destroying them. I already have to take pain medication to get through the day, and the room-cleaning increases that Hilton is proposing for housekeepers at my hotel just might break me all together. ”

The striking workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 1, and include housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, bell staff, food servers, and others. Hilton workers are among 8,000 other hotel workers in the Chicago area whose contracts expired on August 31, 2009. In August 2010, Hilton workers in Chicago voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike at 4 area properties – the Chicago Hilton, Hilton O’Hare, the Palmer House Hilton, and the Drake, with 96% of union members voting in favor of a strike. The Chicago Hilton and Hilton O’Hare are owned by Hilton and all four are Hilton-managed.

“An issue of deep concern to Chicago, which has faced a loss of convention business in the last year, is Hilton’s introduction of a dramatic increase to the housekeeping workload—what we call the “Dirty Rooms” program,” says UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin. “Despite having benefited from millions in taxpayer dollars, Hilton’s proposals threaten to lower the standard for cleanliness and guest service at one of the city’s premiere convention hotel properties.”

Blackstone Group [NYSE: BX] manages $100 billion in assets for large pension funds and other investors around the country. Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8% annually from 2010 through 2014. Despite trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are refusing to share that recovery with workers.


UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.
###

Ameristar Casino Workers Settle Contract

New contract increases wages across the board, adds retirement benefits, and limits number of part-time jobs

East Chicago, IN – After a year-long contract dispute with Ameristar, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 ratified historic new contracts covering over 200 workers at the casino in East Chicago, Indiana. The contract settlement represents a major victory for workers at the casino, whose contracts expired on October 31, 2009.

Most significantly, the new contract includes language that protects jobs for Ameristar workers by guaranteeing limits on the use of part-time employees. Terms of the settlement also include retroactive raises across the board and first-time retirement benefits for Ameristar workers. Workers also were able to preserve health care coverage with no increases in costs to employees at a time when employers nationally are slashing employer-provided healthcare and raising health plan costs.

Ameristar workers have led a year-long campaign to raise awareness about the growing reliance on part-time workers to staff the casinos, leafleting, holding actions, and testifying before the Indiana Gaming Commission on the adverse effect of staffing cuts to the regional economy. The settlement, which limits the number of part-time workers with few or no benefits, will help to ensure that jobs in the Northwest Indiana gaming industry remain stable, middle-class jobs.

“This contract settlement is a victory for Ameristar workers and the region,” says Jami Peterson, a bartender who has worked at Ameristar for the last 13 years. “When gaming came to Indiana over a dozen years ago, these casinos were supposed to provide good jobs to replace the ones that were moving overseas. Now we have protections in the contract that ensure that more and more of us can go to the doctor, get off of welfare, or retire with dignity.”

Contracts between members of UNITE HERE Local 1 and three Indiana casinos, Ameristar East Chicago, Majestic Star Casino in Gary, and Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, expired October 31, 2009. UNITE HERE Local 1 settled a contract with Blue Chip in July 2010 and is still in negotiations with Majestic Star. In 2004, workers at these casinos won historic contracts that secured fully employer-paid health insurance for individuals for the first time. Workers cite keeping that healthcare coverage among their top concerns in negotiations for the new contracts. Layoffs and reduced hours, resulting in the loss of health insurance and other benefits, are among other top concerns.


UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over
15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

# # #

Hyatt workers strike at Hyatt O’Hare

Days before Labor Day, workers facing layoffs and cuts protest how Chicago-based Hyatt and its billionaire owners are taking unfair advantage of tough times

Chicago, IL — Just days before Labor Day, workers at the Hyatt Regency near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport are on strike. Hyatt O’Hare workers join Hyatt workers in several cities across North America who are striking as part of a wave of demonstrations this week by thousands of hotel workers protesting Hyatt (NYSE: H) and its billionaire ownership family, the Pritzkers. Workers say the company is trying to make the recession permanent for its employees, despite significantly improving industry conditions and Hyatt’s increased profitability and huge cash reserves.

Union contracts covering Hyatt O’Hare workers and approximately 8,000 other Chicago-area hotel workers expired on August 31, 2009. On July 29, 2010, hundreds of Hyatt O’Hare workers, who are members of UNITE HERE Local 450, and UNITE HERE Local 1 members at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt, Hyatt McCormick Place, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 92% voting in favor of striking. The vote represents a major escalation of a citywide labor dispute among Chicago’s downtown hotels and with Hyatt in particular, which has become the target of labor demonstrations across North America in recent weeks.
“Life has been hard for me and my family, ever since Hyatt laid off my husband in the laundry,” says Carmen Sandoval, a UNITE HERE Local 450 member and room attendant of 30 years at the Hyatt O’Hare outside Chicago, where union contracts expired over a year ago. “Now they have us working harder and faster with fewer people, and people are getting injured. I have to take Tylenol everyday just to get through my shift. I am on strike because I’m tired of billionaires profiting from our pain.”

Hotel workers have endured months of chronic understaffing and excessive injury rates. Now Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds. While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker Family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009. The most prominent member of the Pritzker Family is Penny Pritzker, the former national finance for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, who now serves on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).

Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. Hyatt reported that as of June 30, 2010 it had over $1.6 billion in cash and short term investments available. Despite a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are still squeezing workers and cutting staff. While this marks a trend involving several major hotel companies, Hyatt is the starkest example.

“This Labor Day Hyatt workers are standing up to a company that has taken unfair advantage of this recession for too long,” says Bill Biggerstaff, the President of UNITE HERE Local 450. “Hyatt wants to lock workers into a permanent recession with cheap contracts and more cuts, and workers are fed up.”
In 2010, citywide hotel contracts covering 45,000 unionized hotel workers—including thousands of Hyatt workers—in cities across the U.S. and Canada will expire and be subject to bargaining. This week there will be Hyatt protests will be held in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Honolulu, Toronto, Vancouver, Sacramento, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Santa Clara.

 

UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.
# # #