Heat lamps turned on over striking Park Hyatt workers
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff reporter July 21, 2011 8:34PM
Updated: July 22, 2011 2:16AM
A heated protest got even steamier for hotel workers on strike outside the Park Hyatt Thursday morning when heat lamps turned on and stayed on for about 45 minutes despite the ongoing heat wave.
It happened about 7 a.m. when the lamps — used to warm up workers and guests during frigid weather — blinked on at the hotel’s main entrance at 800 N. Michigan Ave. as temperatures reached the mid-80s, said Gabriel Carrasquillo, a restaurant server at the hotel.
“Initially we just thought, how unbelievable, they’re turning on the heat lamps in this heat advisory. This is what they think of us,” Carrasquillo said.
Then Carrasquillo joined about 50 other protesters in chanting, “You can’t smoke us out,” and “Do what you want, we’re not leaving.” Forty five minutes later, the lamps were turned off with no words from hotel management, he said.
The hotel later issued a statement confirming the lamps were on “but as soon as that fact came to our attention, they were turned off immediately.” The hotel also offered water to employees and guests in front of the hotel.
Although workers have been negotiating with management for two years, a major sticking point is subcontracting or outsourcing its housekeeping staff, a notion union hotel workers consider a threat to their job security.
Hyatt called the strike “another tactic in the union’s campaign, designed to grow the membership and dues at the expense of the local members they aim to represent,” a statement said. The hotel said the protests have not affected any guest services.
Thursday’s daylong strike coincided with protests at Hyatts in nine other cities in the U.S.