For immediate release
January 7, 2010
(213) 481-8530 ext. 253
Labor leader pickets with 600 negotiating Hyatt hotel workers in Century City
LOS ANGELES – In his first visit to Los Angeles since taking over as President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka picketed and rallied with hotel workers in Los Angeles on Thursday, Jan. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.
Trumka called on the Hyatt Corporation to improve working standards in its Los Angeles hotels.
"The Hyatt has not behaved responsibly," Trumka said. "First, the company fired 98 experienced housekeepers in Boston only to replace them with $8-an-hour staffing agency employees. Next, a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that housekeepers working at the Hyatt hotels used in this study had a higher reported injury rate than housekeepers working at other top hotels used the study. It’s time for the Hyatt to clean up its act."
Contracts at two LA Hyatt hotels, the Andaz in West Hollywood and the Regency Century Plaza in Century City, expired on Nov. 30, 2009, leaving more than 800 hotel workers without a contract. Negotiations are underway.
Rhina Gonzalez, a housekeeper at the Century Plaza, reminded rally participants of the hard work housekeepers are asked to do.
"We are the gasoline that makes this hotel run," Gonzalez said. "Cleaning up after guests, we lift heavy pillow-top mattresses, change the sheets, vacuum the floors and push heavy carts from room to room. It’s hard work, and it’s hard on our bodies."
Meanwhile, workers at the non-union Hyatt Regency Long Beach have been publicly trying to organize a union in their workplace since May 2009.
Benjamin Leonen, a lead cook at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, told attendants that he and his co-workers do not have a union, which would enable them to bargain collectively for a contract.
"The result is that just 30 miles away, my co-workers and I do the same work for the same company as LA workers, but earn less money and have fewer rights on the job," Leonen said.
Trumka said the Hyatt must recognize the right of workers in Long Beach to a fair process for organizing a union.
"Without a union, the Hyatt can fire employees who have put in years of service for any reason at any moment," Trumka said. "If the housekeepers in Boston had a union, the Hyatt would not have been allowed to throw them out like it did."
Despite soaring profits — the Hyatt made more than $1.3 billion in profit from 2004-2008 — the company used the poor economy as an excuse to fire the Boston housekeepers.
But Walsh said the tourism industry, LA’s number one job generator, must provide strong jobs with decent wages in order to help propel the local economy.
"Strong union contracts with a livable wage and affordable health benefits for the more than 800 Hyatt workers can act as a boon to our local economy," Walsh said. "It’s time to raise the standards for service workers, not fall back."