Archive for the ‘Hyatt’ Category

by Linda Bloom

Reposted from the UMConnections blog

umns13 198 1 Connections United Methodists take heart in labor agreement

(From left) the Revs. Marti Scott, Chuck Dauhm, Michael Shanahan and C.J. Hawking line up (risking arrest) in support of Hyatt workers in Chicago. A web-only photo by Luis Juarez

They prayed at the picket line, listened to workers’ stories, sent delegations to meet with management and supported a boycott.

So when UNITE HERE, the union of hospitality workers in the United States and Canada, recently reached a tentative labor agreement with the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, United Methodists were pleased.

The Rev. Israel Alvaran, who helped organize denominational support in northern California, said he was inspired by workers willing to take risks and make sacrifices so a global corporation would hear their concerns. “This was a David and Goliath fight,” he declared.

The Rev. C.J. Hawking, a United Methodist pastor and executive director of Arise, Chicago, agreed the workers, “really put up a valiant fight.” Two other hotel chains, Starwood and Hilton,already had signed agreements with workers that “provide safe working conditions and limit outsourcing,” she said.

The agreement reached July 1 will go into effect upon the settlement and ratification of union contracts by Hyatt associates in San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Chicago, according to UNITE HERE. Key provisions include retroactive wage increases and a fair process mechanism for a union vote.

UNITE HERE will end its global boycott of Hyatt when the contracts are ratified. Hyatt agreed to a fair process for workers in some hotels immediately, but not in other hotels, said Ross Hyman, who was assigned by the AFL-CIO to work with religious supporters in Chicago. “In those hotels, the boycott will continue, even though the global boycott has ended,” he clarified.

Both the California-Nevada and Northern Illinois annual (regional) conferences of The United Methodist Church officially have supported the hotel workers. That’s in keeping with the denomination’s Social Principles and resolutions said John Hill, who oversees work on economic and environmental justice for the denomination’s Board of Church and Society.

Those principles are clear about rights of workers, including the need for a living wage and the right to bargain collectively, he pointed out. Whether they provide housekeeping services in hotels or harvest crops on farms, “we take our lead from the workers who are struggling to improve their own lives and conditions,” Hill said.

Chicago picket lines

In the Chicago area, about 7,000 Hyatt workers had been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2009. The economic boycott there targeted the Park Hyatt on the Magnificent Mile, Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive and the Hyatt O’Hare.

The Rev. Teran Loeppke, a deacon in the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference, wrote the legislation adopted in 2011 that created the conference’s Hyatt Boycott Monitoring and Organizing Committee and supported the worker-led boycott of 16 Hyatt properties in the United States.

“I think we were one of the pieces of the comprehensive effort that has led to this whole tentative agreement,” Loeppke said. “Anytime dedicated clergy and lay people get together to really focus in a concerted way…good things have the opportunity to happen.”

Because the Hyatt headquarters are in Chicago, having the conference representing United Methodists in the city honor the boycott made it “that much more significant,” Hyman noted.

“Methodists also played a role in trying to reach out to other organizations for them to honor the boycott,” he added. When religious scholars meeting in Chicago last fall moved the headquarters hotel further from the convention center, United Methodists helped organize a Sabbath walk to accompany Orthodox Jews “so that everyone would be walking together.”

Other actions included picketing and prayer, including a “flash prayer” event in the Hyatt Regency lobby. “We just really prayed and prayed, with complete earnestness, really valuing the collective prayer in the public square,” Hawking said. “Stating that God’s presence was there was very powerful for management to hear and the workers to hear as well.”

When religious delegations went to see Hyatt management, the workers often sent “thank you” messages as they waited, noted the Rev. Betty Jo (B.J.) Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, pastor of Incarnation United Methodist Church in Arlington Heights, Ill.

“Seeing that actually the church would be a presence for justice for them and come into their struggle meant so much to the people that I talked with,” she said.

Hawking and Birkhahn-Rommelfanger were among those able to get passes “to go to back of house” at the Hyatt hotel to interview workers during their lunch hour. Jewish groups led the effort to publish a clergy report, “Open the Gates of Justice,” on working conditions at Hyatt hotels.

Hawking remembers talking with one of the employees, a pastry chef and single mom. “She literally stood for 8 to 10 hours every day over her work table,” she said. “It was very powerful to be in the back of the house like that and to see a glimpse of what their lives were like.”

Support and solidarity in California

As in Chicago, United Methodists in the denomination’s California-Nevada Conference have focused on support and solidarity for Hyatt workers, Alvaran explained. A member of the Philippines Central Conference, he has helped organize interfaith support for workers in northern California since 2007.

In San Francisco, the union allowed them to bring clergy to organizing meetings “to provide that ministry of presence and assurance that all will be well, you don’t have to fear,” he said.

Alvaran believes the new tentative contract is a “huge” accomplishment, particularly in terms of a neutrality agreement that provides a “hands off” approach as workers decide how they want to organize. But, it doesn’t apply to every hotel in the area, such as the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf, which is no longer owned by the Hyatt corporation. The California-Nevada Conference approved a resolution in endorsing a worker-led boycott of the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf in 2009.

Before the 2013 annual conference meeting in June at the Sacramento Hyatt, Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., discussed the denomination’s position on labor issues with both with union leaders and management.

“We took seriously our responsibility to respect our relationships with our neighbors,” Brown told United Methodist News Service. “We met with representatives of the labor movement that have concerns about working conditions for hotel workers and we met with the general manager and the human resources manager of the Hyatt property.”

Several factors influenced the conference’s decision to have its 2014 annual session at a unionized hotel, the Hyatt Burlingame. Brown — whose parents, now retired, were both union members — was particularly pleased the contract with that hotel includes protective language that allows cancellation without penalty in the event of a labor dispute and he urged other annual conferences to do the same.

Including what is known as a force majeure clause in their hotel contracts, allowing them to move to another hotel if a boycott or worker action occurs, is the best way for church groups to help hotel workers, Hyman said, “because of the enormous consumer power that they wield.”

Alvaran said that conferences could check the union’s website to see if hotels in a particular city are under a worker boycott.

*Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe. Contact her at (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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THURSDAY 9/13/12

TIFs are for Kids

Penny Pritzker sits on the Board of both Hyatt Hotels and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). As a Hyatt Board Member, she agreed to the construction of a Hyatt Hotel using $5.2 million dollars of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). This money otherwise could have helped provide for students’ basic needs like libraries and text books.

As a CPS Board Member, she failed to prioritize students and has allowed hundreds of millions of CPS dollars to be siphoned off to be given to wealthy developers and corporate headquarters via the TIF system.

The 3:30 action will call on leaders like Ms. Pritzker and the CPS Board to put children first and to use TIF funds for schools, libraries and parks rather than tax breaks to the 1%.  The wider community will join striking teachers who are fighting to protect our children and provide the education they deserve.

Thursday, September 12

3:30pm – Picket at Hyatt Regency

4:45pm – Rally and Press Conference at Park at the corner of Congress Parkway & Michigan Ave

RSVP to the Facebook Event

FRIDAY 9/14/12Religious Support for Teachers

Religious leaders organized by Arise Chicago will join other community leaders at a press conference at City Hall outside the mayor’s office showing the steadfast support for the Chicago Teachers Union who is calling for:

-public education to remain public

-quality schools for all students

-more resources for neighborhood school

-a recall system that will support African American and Latinos  .  teachers in our schools

Religious leaders are invited to attend and to wear prayer shawls, stoles, collars, or other items of your tradition.

Friday September 14, 10:00am

City Hall, 5th floor


SATURDAY 9/15/12What Teacher Solidarity Looks Like

This Saturday, the Chicago Teachers Union is asking for all allies to join in a mass rally to keep public education public.

The 30,000 teachers, school social workers, clerks, vision and hearing testers, school nurses, teaching assistants, counselors, and other school professionals of the Chicago Teachers Union are standing strong to defend public education from test pushers, privatizers, and a national onset of big money interest groups trying to push education back to the days before teachers had unions. Around the country and even the world, this struggle is being recognized as the front line of resistance to the corporate education agenda.

Educators and supporters from across the country have pledged to travel to Chicago in solidarity to rally.

Will you join us?  Help us show the world what solidarity looks like! Wear red or your Arise Chicago t-shirt.Let the CTU know you will be there by registering here.

Saturday, September 15

12:00pm noon

Union Park at Ashland and Lake

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By Talia Stein

Each year on Passover, Jewish people retell the story of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt and their journey out of slavery to freedom.  Passover is holiday focused around remembering struggles of the past and connecting them to our current lives.  There are several traditions that are incorporated into the Passover Seder.  Among them are eating matzah (the bread of affliction), eating bitter herbs, and dipping vegetables in salt water (the salt water representing tears).  These traditions are meant to remind us of the pain and suffering experienced by the Israelites in slavery.  There are also rituals incorporated to “experience” the freedom after the exodus, such as drinking wine while leaning on comfortable pillows.

Because of this theme of leaving slavery toward freedom, Passover Seders are often used as a place to connect various social justice issues to the holiday of Passover.  Specifically, a Seder about workers rights may tell the story of exploited workers’ journey to achieving justice on the job.  A Labor Seder focused on workers rights not only educates participants about relevant and current workers rights struggles, but also fulfills this idea of remembering the story of the Israelites in Egypt and connecting it to the present. A Labor Seder has the ability to bring together the Jewish, progressive, and labor communities while exploring different worker struggles.

This year, Arise Chicago, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, and Moishe House Chicago put together a Labor Seder with the help of the Jewish Labor Committee and Rabbi Brant Rosen from the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation.  At the Seder, people from all over Chicago heard from workers about their experiences and struggles with their jobs, as well as the campaigns going on in Chicago to support them.  For instance, we heard from a Hyatt worker about the unjust working conditions and unfair treatment of co-workers. A janitor talked about the struggle she and her fellow workers faced in trying to win a fair new contract.  In addition, we connected traditional elements of the Passover Seder to current workers rights issues.  For example, rather than reciting the traditional Four Questions, which ask why the Seder night is different from all other nights (the Four Questions are: Why do we eat matzah and not bread; why do we eat the bitter herbs; why do we dip two items in tonight; and why do we eat reclining or leaning slightly to the side), we discussed four questions relating to domestic workers.  Specifically, we asked and answered why domestic workers need a bill of rights; what are some of the protections that a domestic workers bill of rights would provide; what does Passover have to do with domestic workers; and what can each of us do to support the domestic workers bill of rights.  Later, Arise lifted up the story of the 136 Rolf’s Patisserie workers who lost their jobs without warning last December.  We talked about how the workers stayed united to fight for the payment of their final paychecks, which had bounced—and how they won.  All present were asked for their support as the workers continue their struggle to receive the 60 days pay owed to them under the WARN Act.

Overall, the evening was full of learning, singing, discussing and eating.  People left inspired to learn more about various workers rights issues and interested in taking action to stop current workplace injustice and prevent future injustices.  Find photos of this year’s Labor Seder below.

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Talia is a Religious Organizer at Arise Chicago through AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

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Last week, at the end of a weeklong strike by Hyatt Hotel workers in four different cities around the U.S., religious leaders gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago to pray and call for the Hyatt corporation to treat their workers justly in contract negotiations. What follows are some reflections on the action by Rabbi Brant Rosen, who serves Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois. For more from Rabbi Rosen, visit his blog.

Today marked the end of a week-long strike at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and Hyatt Regency McCormick Place  held simultaneously with Hyatt workers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu.  This morning I walked the picket line at the Hyatt Regency and had the honor of participating in an interfaith solidarity service with local Chicago clergy.  That’s me in the pic below, together with Rabbi Victor Mirelman (left) of West Suburban Temple Har Zion and Rabbi Larry Edwards (center) of Congregation Or Chadash. Above you can see Victor sounding the shofar in a dramatic start to our service.

As I’ve written before, the situation facing Hyatt workers in many cities throughout the country is deplorable. Hyatt has eliminated jobs,replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed dangerous workloads on those who remain.  Although the strike will be over today, the boycott of eighteen Hyatt hotels nationwide continues.

Again, I encourage you to read “Open the Gates of Justice: A Clergy Report on Working Conditions at Hyatt Hotels” for more information.  The report contains the direct testimony of hotel workers themselves, who speak eloquently to the injustices they endure – as well as their desire only to be valued as workers for the important work they do for Hyatt hotels.

At the interfaith service today, I read an “Avinu Malkeinu” High Holiday prayer that I reworked in honor of the striking Hyatt workers. Click below to read:

Avinu Malkeinu, help us to stand with our brothers and sisters who seek a fair wage, safe working conditions and a secure future;
Avinu Malkeinu, help us to remain firm as we hold the Hyatt corporations such to account.

Avinu Malkeinu, remind us that all workers are worthy of respect and dignity;
Avinu Malkeinu, remind us that those who do the work of hospitality are doing sacred work.

Avinu Malkeinu, let us never waver in our support for those who seek to organize unions in their workplaces;
Avinu Malkeinu, let us never falter in our support of power equity and collective bargaining.

Avinu Malkeinu, bring healing and comfort to those workers who have been needlessly injured on the job;
Avinu Malkeinu, bring the truth of their suffering out of the darkness and into the light of day.

Avinu Malkeinu, we say shame on the kind of employer who would turn heat lamps on striking workers;
Avinu Malkeinu, we say it’s time to turn up the heat on the Hyatt corporation until it treats its workers with decency and respect.

Avinu Malkeinu, help us to remind Hyatt that workers are not commodities to be acquired and discarded;
Avinu Malkeinu, help us insist that Hyatt cease outsourcing its jobs to subcontractors.

Avinu Malkeinu, let us remind Hyatt that its ownership does not extend to public sidewalks and passways;
Avinu Malkeinu, let us remind the world that the right to freely assemble is a basic and inalienable right.

Avinu Malkeinu, we stand with all who have become vulnerable during these years of economic hardship;
Avinu Malkeinu, we stand with the poor, the unhoused, the uninsured, the undocumented.

Avinu Malkeinu, we stand with all workers, the ones who make our beds, serve our food, police our streets or teach our children;
Avinu Malkeinu, we will stand up against all those who would demean the sacred cause of worker justice.

Avinu Malkeinu, may this be the year we bring justice and equity for the workers of Hyatt;
Avinu Malkeinu, may this be the year we bring justice and equity for all who labor throughout the land.

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