Just days before Labor Day, Hyatt workers in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Chicago and Toronto went on strike, as part of a wave of demonstrations in ten cities last week by hotel workers protesting Hyatt and its billionaire ownership family, the Pritzkers. Workers say the company is trying to make the recession permanent for its employees, despite significantly improving industry conditions and Hyatt’s increased profitability and huge cash reserves.
Multi-city strikes last week represent a major escalation in a labor dispute involving Hyatt, which has been the target of a number of major demonstrations by union and non-union hotel workers this summer. Hotel workers have endured months of chronic understaffing and excessive injury rates. Now Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds. Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker Family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009.
"Life has been very difficult for my family since the Hyatt eliminated my bartending position two years ago," said Sonia Cruz, a 17-year Hyatt Century Plaza employee in Los Angeles. "I have had to piece together shifts, working in various positions and still most weeks, only getting three days of work. As business improves in the hotel, we want the Hyatt to reinstate our jobs, add shifts to the schedule and let the workers share in the economic recovery."
In addition to strikes, hotel workers held Hyatt protests in Boston, Vancouver, Sacramento, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Burlingame, and Santa Clara. Actions ranged from Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) walking the picket line with non-union Hyatt workers in Indianapolis to a rally in Boston with the "Hyatt 100" and hundreds of supporters to mark the one-year anniversary of Hyatt firing their entire housekeeping staff at the three Boston-area Hyatt hotels.
To read more about the events in each city, visit www.hotelworkersrising.org.