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Candlelight vigil at the Hyatt Regency Boston after the hotel fired its longtime housekeepers and replaced them with outsourced temporary labor.
Vigil for fired housekeepers at the Boston Hyatt
President Obama has nominated Hyatt Hotels heir Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary, a pick that has been anticipated for weeks. Pritzker has been one of Obama's top fundraisers since he ran for Senate in 2004, and is believed to have wanted the role at commerce when Obama was first elected president.

Though not unexpected, Pritzker's nomination is a distressing one for unions and their supporters. Pritzker is a board member at Hyatt Hotels, which is being boycotted over its labor practices, and was a member of Chicago's Board of Education, embracing the policies that led the city's teachers to strike in 2012. Hyatt and Pritzker say there's no issue:

Hyatt spokeswoman Katie Rackoff accused UNITE HERE of "target[ing] Hyatt board members and spread[ing] misinformation about our associates' workplace experience" to gain publicity for its efforts.
Misinformation like how a Hyatt manager turned heat lamps on picketing workers? How Martha and Lorena Reyes were just coincidentally fired for questionable violations of break policy right after they complained about pictures being posted with their heads photoshopped onto bikini-clad bodies? How they're not the only ones to experience similar coincidences between speaking out and being suspended or fired? How the Boston and Cambridge Hyatts had their longtime housekeepers train low-paid temp workers under false pretexts, then fired the longtime housekeepers, revealing that the temps were their replacements? How a study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found higher injury rates among Hyatt housekeepers than those at other chains? No, the Sierra Club and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Council of La Raza, among many others, did not sign on to this boycott because of "misinformation." As a board member and member of the company's founding family, these are things Penny Pritzker could influence, and has evidently chosen not to.

Announcing Pritzker's nomination,

"She's built companies from the ground up," Obama said. "She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur."
I'm going to hazard a guess that in her company-building, Pritzker was somewhat aided by her vast inherited wealth. In 2011, 11 members of the Pritzker family were on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, with Penny ranked 263 at $1.7 billion. She may have built companies, in other words, but she wasn't starting from the ground up, and if her experience shows anything, it's not that government programs aren't so helpful or that personal entrepreneurship is that important, but that inheriting your wealth makes things a whole lot easier. Just as having been an early and important fundraiser for a senator who went on to become president makes you more likely to become commerce secretary than the average top 0.01 percenter.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu May 02, 2013 at 12:56 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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