(Chicago, IL)--After 20 months of negotiations, housekeepers, dishwashers, bellmen and other hotel workers are going on strike at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, the largest Hyatt property in the world. Hyatt, a company run by billionaires, wants to outsource work and impose dangerous working conditions on housekeepers. Workers also say they want to be able to show solidarity with Hyatt workers elsewhere. Under Hyatt's current terms, they would be forced to waive their right to do so.
Hundreds of religious leaders affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice will be joining workers on the picket lines today. Rabbis and other religious leaders have played a key role nationally in building support for Hyatt workers across North America. Most notably in Chicago, religious leaders have led delegations to top Hyatt executives at Hyatt Global Headquarters in December 2009 and at Hyatt's first annual shareholders meeting in Chicago in June 2010.
Nationwide, Hyatt has sparked controversy for its abuse of housekeepers and for replacing long-term employees with workers from temporary agencies at far lower rates of pay. As a result, Hyatt has faced numerous strikes and dozens of demonstrations nationally in recent years.
"Our bodies hurt, but Hyatt is ignoring us. We will no longer suffer in silence," says Cecilia Leiva, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
Academic studies have shown housekeeping to be dangerous work that can lead to debilitating injuries. A landmark study of 50 hotels published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2010 found that housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels had the highest rate of injury for housekeepers among the five major hotel companies included in the study.
"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 now workers have hit a boiling point."
Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. Hyatt has more cash on hand than most of the major hotel operators combined, and yet across North America Hyatt continues to lock workers into poverty.
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 700 workers at the Hyatt Regency, the 2019-room hotel on Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Contracts for Hyatt workers expired on August 31, 2009. 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. In September 2010, workers at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, Ill. carried out a one-day strike. The strike will last from 4:00am-8:00pm Monday.
Unionized Hyatt Regency Chicago Workers Spend Day On Strike
Union workers at Chicago's Hyatt Regency launched a one-day strike Monday at the 151 E. Wacker Drive location as they called for better working conditions and a better sense of job security.
“Hyatt is one of the most abusive hotels in their treatment of housekeepers and has the worst record on subcontracting,” added Henry Tamarin, Local 1's president in a news release. “They refuse to budge on these important issues, and now workers have hit a boiling point.”
Last Tuesday, several thousand protesters showed up to a rally protesting bank bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy in a rally sponsored by Stand Up! Chicago at the same location. The Hyatt Regency was host to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce's annual Chicago Executive Summit. Twenty-four individuals were arrested during that protest while, at press time, no arrests have been reported from the Unite Here Local 1 strike.
Hyatt Regency Chicago workers stage one-day strike
“The two big things that we’re stuck on right now are subcontracting and working conditions for housekeepers, which has been a major concern” and source of controversy, particularly at Hyatt hotels across the country, said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for Unite here Local 1.
The union says academic studies have shown housekeeping to be dangerous work that can lead to debilitating injuries.
Local 1 has addressed subcontracting concerns at other Chicago area unionized hotels, Strassel said. The union ratified contracts this year covering workers at Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Unite Here Local 1 represents about 1,800 Hyatt workers in the Chicago area.
Hyatt Workers Strike for Pay, Benefits
"We're striking to get a better contract. We're sick and tired of all the disrespect we're getting from the Hyatt hotels. We want some more respect," said Roberto Lopez, who worked at the Hyatt for 28 years. "We want to get better benefits. We're tired of the way they're treating us."
Unite Here is expecting hundreds of religious leaders to join its members on the picket line this afternoon.
Hyatt Regency union holds one-day strike
The one-day strike at the Hyatt Regency follows a series of other actions against the company over the past year, including a walkout at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and picketing outside Hyatt's annual meetings.
“This strike, which negatively impacts our associates, is just another tactic in the union's anti-Hyatt campaign, designed to grow the union's membership and dues at the expense of the local members they claim to represent,” the Hyatt Regency says in a statement.
The statement says that Hyatt filed an unfair labor practice charge last month alleging that Local 1 was stalling contract negotiations. The company's most recent contract proposal doesn't demand any employee concessions and matches pay and benefit levels Local 1 agreed to with the other hotel chains, the statement says.
VIDEO NBC: Hyatt Workers Strike for Pay, Benefits