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Union calls for worldwide boycott of Hyatt Hotels

Updated: August 25, 2012 6:08AM

Labor unrest at Hyatt Hotels Corp. escalated Monday as Unite Here called for a global boycott of the Chicago-based hotel chain and the company took out a full-page Washington Post ad blasting the union campaign and defending its workplace practices.

The union held a press conference in Washington D.C. announcing the boycott with leaders from the AFL-CIO, NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, among others, labeling the company “the worst hotel employer in America.”

Unite Here has been engaged in a long battle with the company protesting the outsourcing of jobs and working conditions. It represents, housekeepers, bell staff, restaurant workers and others.

“The launch of the global boycott marks the largest escalation to date in an ongoing campaign for basic worker rights,” Unite Here said in a release Monday.

“Hyatt has abused housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those who remain.”

Unite Here President John Wilhelm said in a statement “it is unacceptable in 2012 that women endure debilitating injuries as a result of the work they do cleaning rooms.”

Hyatt accused Unite Here of engaging in “publicity stunts” and said the union has refused to allow Hyatt workers “to vote on the same wage and benefits proposals the union accepted at Starwood and Hilton hotels. As a result, Unite Here has denied Hyatt associates it represents the wage and benefit increases they deserve for nearly three years.

“Contrary to what Unite Here says, Hyatt provides industry-leading wage and benefits packages, maintains an outstanding workplace safety record, and is a recognized leader in promoting a diverse workforce.”

The company said the boycott “will have a direct and negative impact on our associates, who depend on business in their hotels for their livelihoods.”

In announcing the boycott, Unite Here also said it will engage in a week of demonstrations at Hyatt Hotels in 20 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco and Boston.

In recent weeks, the National Labor Relations Board found there was merit that Unite Here Local 1 and Local 450 were bargaining in bad faith by refusing to schedule more frequent negotiating sessions and that a proposal by the union regarding strikes and work stoppages was overly broad making it unlawful. But the NLRB also found a hotel charge that the union was seeking to bargain and take work that had historically not been bargaining unit work did not have merit. That charge related to subcontracted work.

Since the labor dispute began, the union has staged short strikes at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Hyatt Regency O’Hare, and Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. In May 2010, Hyatt Regency Chicago workers, led by more than 100 housekeepers, staged an impromptu walkout protesting working conditions.

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