WASHINGTON – A global boycott of Hyatt hotels was launched today at a press conference here by hotel workers, labor leaders, women’s rights activists, LGBT leaders, NFL football players, students, and others.
The boycott, the groups said, is in response to the hotel company’s abuse of workers and low wages. Unite Here, the hotel workers’ union, also announced that it will stage, this week, demonstrations and actions at Hyatt hotels in 20 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Boston.
The boycott is the highest escalation thus far in a campaign for worker rights that has been going on for years with the union now describing Hyatt as the worst employer in the hotel industry.
Particularly galling to the labor movement and its allies has been Hyatt’s practice of replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and the impositon of what workers say are dangerous and health-threatening workloads.
“In a unionized hotel the standard is to do 14 or 15 rooms a day but Hyatt has demanded in its non-union hotels that workers clean up to 26 to 32 rooms a day, doing marble floors on their hands and knees and lifting 100 pound mattresses,” said John Wilhelm, the union’s President. “No one can do this for long and survive so that’s why they push this model of contracting out for minimum wage workers with a high turnover,” he explained.
Richard Trumka, president of the nation’s largest labor federation threw what he described as “the full support of the entire labor movement” behind the boycott. Unions and their allies spend many millions of dollars at hotels each year for conferences and conventions. “Hyatt will get none of our patronage,” he said, “as long as they continue to abuse their workers.”
Terry O’Neal, president of the National Organization of Women, noted how the majority of workers targeted for abuse by Hyatt are women. “It is a disgrace that a male CEO gets paid six and a half million dollars,” she said, “and all they can do is pay these women the minimum wage. “There is no excuse for this disparity,” she said and “women’s organizations will stay away from Hyatt until they make a change.”
Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force described her job as a hotel cook 25 years ago. “We know what it is like to be treated unfairly,” said the LGBT leader, “and you can count on us to do everything in our power to make sure that our constituencies stay out of Hyatt hotels. We will be with you every step of the way.”
Many thousands, as a result of the boycott, will be choosing not to eat, meet or sleep at Hyatt hotels.
The boycott follows many public actions by the hotel workers including civil disobedience demonstrations and strikes.
The company has, at times, responded in brutal fashion including last summer when it turned heat lamps on picketing workers during a brutal heart wave in Chicago.
Hyatt hs also refused to remain neutral when workers in non-union Hyatts try to affiliate with the union. “They have to be very brave,” Wilhelm said, “because in one out of five cases workers trying to unionize at their workplaces get fired in this country,” he said.
The boycott has been endorsed by virtually every union representing hotel workers worldwide.
Photo: The global boycott of Hyatt follows years of actions by Hyatt workers, including a 2010 sit-in in the streets of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Local 1 UNITE HERE