For immediate release
May 26, 2010
Housekeepers protest dangerous working conditions and workload increases
(Chicago, IL) – At 9:30 a.m. this morning, approximately 400 workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago walked off the job, in protest of worsening working conditions in housekeeping and the decision by the hotel last week to ban union organizers from the premises. The decision to walkout was first taken by the housekeeping department and quickly spread to the rest of the hotel. Hundreds of workers picketed the hotel for three hours before returning to work around noon.
In recent months, the Hyatt Regency has undergone major renovations and changes to room amenities that have significantly increased the housekeeping workload, but the hotel has not reduced with the daily room quota that housekeepers are obligated to maintain. On Monday, 120 Hyatt Regency workers led a delegation to HRC General Manger Patrick Donnelly with a petition, demanding relief from the growing strain of their work. The General Manager has refused to respond to the housekeepers’ concerns.
"Our bodies are in pain, and Hyatt is ignoring us. Housekeepers are the heart of the hotel–you can’t run a hotel without us–and today we reminded Hyatt that we should be taken seriously," says Claudette Evans, who works in the housekeeping department at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. "I walked out today for myself, and my mother who’s also been a housekeeper at the Hyatt for 14 years, because our health is on the line."
Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. Hyatt shares have increased in value over 50% since the initial public offering of shares in November of 2009. Despite these trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are still squeezing workers and cutting staff. While this marks a trend involving several major hotel companies, Hyatt is the starkest example.
Academic studies have shown housekeeping to be dangerous work that can cause serious injuries, chronic pain and in some instances permanent disability. A landmark study of 50 hotels published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in January 2010 found that housekeepers working at the Hyatt hotels studied had the highest injury rate 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 increasing of workload," says Henry Tamarin, the President of UNITE HERE Local 1–the union of hospitality workers in Chicago. "Amid the recession, Hyatt owners, the Pritkzer family, made over $900 million dollars when they took their company public. Still, Hyatt is using the economy as an excuse to get their staff to work harder for less. Now workers are angry–these housekeepers are in pain–and today they hit a boiling point."