Silicon Valley protests Hyatt abuse of women

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A broad cross section of Silicon Valley joined Hyatt hotel workers in front of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara last week, speaking out against Hyatt’s abuse of women workers.

The Oct. 12 action was initiated by Unite Here Local 19, which represents the Hyatt workers in the area. It commemorated the first anniversary of the firing of workers Martha and Lorena Reyes, and supported the campaign to boycott Hyatt that the union has launched.

The two sisters were among many Hyatt women workers who found their faces pasted atop bikini-clad images on the company’s bulletin board. Humiliated, Martha Reyes tore down the photographs of herself and her sister. About a month later, Hyatt Regency Santa Clara fired both sisters. On Nov. 18, 2011, Martha and Lorena Reyes each filed a retaliation charge against the hotel with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Their cases are still under investigation at the EEOC.

“Hyatt hasn’t even apologized to us yet, and that really upsets me. It’s the least they could do,” said Martha Reyes. “We’ve filed our charges and come out publicly asking for an apology and for our jobs back,” adds Lorena Reyes. “And still we’ve heard nothing from Hyatt. It’s really frustrating and disrespectful.”

Shouts of “No justice, no peace!” and “¡Si se puede!” rang out across the Hyatt parking lot Oct. 12, from both Hyatt workers and about 80 labor, religious, and community representatives marching and picketing in front of the hotel. A “Women’s Rights Quilt” was displayed bearing personal messages of support for the women and all Hyatt workers.

More than 100,000 people across the globe have signed a petition demanding the Reyes sisters’ reinstatement. Pledges of support for the boycott have come from feminist leader Gloria Steinem, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Feminist Majority Foundation, and DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association.

The stunt with the offensive pictures is not the only evidence of Hyatt’s abuse of women and of all its workers. Across the chain, Hyatt housekeepers are required to clean up to 30 rooms per eight-hour shift, forcing rushing that can lead to serious injuries and even permanent disability. A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examining a total of 50 hotel properties from five different companies found that Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers in the study. In a first in the hotel industry, the federal government issued a company-wide letter to Hyatt, warning the company of the hazards its housekeepers face on the job.

Unite Here says it is determined to keep struggling until the Reyes sisters are reinstated and all Hyatt workers are treated with justice. And to judge from the spirit at the rally here, many Silicon Valley residents are standing behind them.

Photo: Unite Here! Local 2 Facebook page


Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.