For immediate release
August 26, 2010
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Facing prospect of a "permanent recession" as billionaire Hyatt owners prosper, area hotel workers gear up for strike
Los Angeles – On August 26, 2010, UNITE HERE Local 11 members working at two area Hyatts–the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and the Hyatt Andaz–voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
The vote represents a major escalation of a labor dispute with the Hyatt Corporation, which has become the target of labor demonstrations across North America in recent weeks. The vote authorizes the rank-and-file bargaining committee to call a strike, if necessary.
Hyatt workers and about 4,000 other hotel workers in Los Angeles have been without a contract since November 2009. On July 22, Hyatt workers and allies took part in a civil disobedience demonstration at the Hyatt Andaz on the Sunset Strip, in coordination with Hyatt protests in 15 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Nearly 1,000 Hyatt workers and supporters were arrested nationwide.
The strike vote and other job protests by Hyatt workers signal a growing crisis for Hyatt and its billionaire owners—the Pritzker Family—who have become a symbol among hotel workers for how the wealthy are trying to take unfair advantage of the recession. Hotel workers in Los Angeles have endured staff cuts, reduced hours, and excessive injury rates. Frustration among area workers has deepened, as Hyatt has tried to make further job cuts and lock workers into recession contracts that flatten wages for years to come, even as the economy rebounds.
"I’ve seen what companies like the Hyatt do during recessions," said Denise Edwards, a 30-year employee of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. "When business gets slow, they cut staff – going from four bussers on the floor to two, for example – but when the business comes back, they don’t restore the staffing levels. Those are shifts employees need in order to feel an economic rebound. Instead, Hyatt makes even bigger profits. That’s not right."
While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker Family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009. The most prominent member of the Pritzker Family is Penny Pritzker, the former national finance chairwoman of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. She now serves as a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).
Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. Hyatt reported that as of March 31, 2010 it had over $1.3 billion in cash available. 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.