Workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago walked off the job on Monday for a day, and were joined by religious leaders, labor organizers, and the rank-and-file faithful Interfaith Worker Justice‘s biannual conference on the picket line.
Attendees paid visits to two other Hyatt hotels in Chicago, staging “pray-ins” in the lobby areas of the Hyatt McCormick and the Park Hyatt.
The workers’ union, Unite Here, says there are two big sticking points in their contract negotiations: subcontracting and working conditions.
It’s understandable why workers want something in writing regarding subcontracting. Hyatt made national headlines in 2009 after the company told 98 of its nonunion housekeepers they had to train substitutes to fill in for them when the housekeepers went on vacation. Later in the day, the workers were abruptly informed that those subs were permanent: all 98 were summarily fired and would be replaced by temp workers who made minimum wage.
The episode drew nearly unanimous scorn from community groups, labor, and even business groups–the Harvard Business Review, hardly known as a friend to workers, titled one blog post “Lessons from Hyatt: Simple Ways to Damage Your Brand.” (Apparently HBR was less concerned about a company laying workers off than a company laying workers off in a way that didn’t play well in the press.)
It is understandable, then, that Hyatt workers in Chicago would want some language in their contract that would set out some guidelines about subcontracting.
Regarding workplace injuries, a 2010 study found that Hyatt housekeepers have the highest rates of injury out of any hotel company in the country.
– Micah is a Midwest Academy Organizing Intern at Arise Chicago