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SCVNews.com | Housekeeper Union Boycotts Hyatt Hotels | 07-23-2012
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Hyatt workers and their allies have launched a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Valencia, for what they describe as years of struggle for basic worker rights.

“Hyatt Hotels has quite purposefully chosen to position itself as the major hotel company that is driving conditions for all of its employees, but especially its housekeepers to the low road,” said John Wilhelm, President, UNITE HERE, the union for North American hotel workers.

That low road according to Wilhelm includes unreasonable room cleaning quotas. He says housekeepers at a typical union hotel clean 14 to 15 rooms a day. At a typical non-union hotel a housekeeper would be required to clean 19.

“Hyatt has pioneered the rapid speed-up of housekeeping work so that in a non-union Hyatt hotel the company demands that a housekeeper does between 26 and 32 rooms a day,” said Wilhelm.

That he says has lead to severe health and safety problems in the U.S. and Canada, with higher injury rates in Hyatt hotels than with competing chains.

“We have asked Hyatt to release all of its injury logs from all of its hotels in North America in response to Hyatt’s assertion that they don’t have a bad injury rate. We know that they do, an academic study supports it, but more importantly the housekeepers know it,” said Wilhelm.

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Hyatt spokesperson Stephanie Shepherd released the following statement:

hyatt-logo“At Hyatt, the satisfaction and wellbeing of our associates is fundamental to the success of our business because they are the ones who provide hospitality to our guests.  Hyatt provides industry-leading wage and benefits packages, maintains an outstanding workplace safety record, and is a recognized leader in promoting a diverse workforce.  That is why the average tenure of Hyatt housekeepers in the US is more than 12 years, why there are more than 20,000 Hyatt associates throughout the U.S. who have been with the company for more than 10 years, and why Hyatt is consistently distinguished as a great place to work in independent surveys of our associates, including our housekeepers.”

Hyatt says theUNITE HERE boycott is not about creating a better workplace at their hotels, but is an attempt to boost union membership at non-union Hyatt hotels through “a non-democratic and intimidating process.” Furthermore, they say Unite Here leaders have refused to allow their members in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Waikiki to vote on proposals containing “the same wage and benefits packages the union accepted at Hilton and Starwood.”

“As a result, our associates in these cities have gone without the pay raises and benefits increases they deserve for nearly three years,” wrote Shepherd.

The Hyatt Regency Valencia is a non-union hotel.

The AFL-CIO, the NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Netroots Nation, and the Interfaith Worker Justice have joined Hyatt housekeepers in the global boycott and safer working conditions.

According to UNITE HERE safety concerns escalated during the so-called Bed Wars in the late 1990s when major hotel chains competing for tourist dollars elected to distinguish themselves by offering more amenities including luxury beds with heavier mattresses and linens, extra pillows (six per king-size and four per queen), in room coffee pots and large hard to clean mirrors that lengthen the amount of time the rooms take to clean. Housekeepers say despite the increased work they still had to meet increased quotas.

UNITE HERE says they created a database of thousands of housekeepers combined with public reports from the five leading hotel companies to cite the following 2006 statistics:

* Hotel workers have a 40 percent higher injury rate (5.8 percent) than workers in the service sector (4.2 percent).

* According to a recent study of company records covering thousands of employee injuries, hotel housekeepers face an injury rate of 10.4 percent; almost double the injury rate for non-housekeepers (5.6 percent).

* Sprains and strains are the most common housekeeper injuries (44 percent of all injuries in one study) often resulting from demanding tasks like bed making—lifting mattresses, adding extra sheets, stuffing duvets and multiple pillows—along with straining to clean showers and pushing heavy carts full of linens and amenities.

In order to prevent injuries UNITE HERE has asked Hyatt to provide housekeepers with long-handled mops and dusters.

“In a standard union hotel in North America a housekeeper does 14 or 15 rooms a day. Now all of you who’ve ever cleaned your own home think about that for a minute: 14 or 15 bathrooms. Hyatt refuses to make available long handled tools for bathroom cleaning which would at least allow the housekeepers to not have to go on their knees in those 14 or 15 bathrooms,” said Wilhelm.

Hyatt officials counter that assertion:

“Our housekeeping staff can use a wide variety of equipment to make their jobs easier, including wedges and mops with various handle lengths,” wrote Shepherd.

UNITE HERE has also requested Hyatt use fitted sheets so housekeepers, who are mostly women, don’t have to lift 100 pound beds. They say the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommended Hyatt use fitted sheets in an April 2012 letter and that CalOSHA made a similar recommendation in 2011.

“Contrary to UniteHere claims, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently inspected many Hyatt properties across the country and found each to be in full compliance with its standards. Hyatt shares the same interest in ensuring employee safety and a healthy workplace as OSHA, and we will continue to pursue a collaborative relationship with the agency in support of that interest,” wrote Shepherd.

Wilhelm believes the high quotas are impossible to meet and that the design by Hyatt is to save money and burn through employees.

“They’ve begun to outsource, subcontract their housekeeping department to temporary labor agencies. Minimum wage, no benefits. But most importantly, very high turnover. That’s the answer to how somebody can do that type of workload over a long period of time, they can’t,” said Wilhelm.

“Hyatt is committed to paying our associates market-leading wages and benefits and their right to vote. In fact, in a full page ad in today’s Washington Post, we set the record straight and urged UniteHere leaders do the right thing for their members by allowing them to vote on a new contract that gives them the wage and benefits increases they deserve,” wrote Shepherd.

For those traveling outside Santa Clarita the call to “Boycott Hyatt” does not include the following union Hyatt hotels with current UNITE HERE collective bargaining agreements: Grand Hyatt New York, Andaz 5th Avenue, Andaz Wall Street, Hyatt Hotel (Highway One Monterey), Hyatt Penn’s Landing (Philadelphia), Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Hyatt Regency Dearborn (Michigan), Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina, Hyatt Regency Monterey, Hyatt Regency on King (Toronto), Hyatt Regency Vancouver, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Hyatt Rosemont, Park Hyatt Toronto.

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