On Monday, Hyatt hotel workers will protest at the company’s annual shareholder meeting against what they claim are abusive workplace practices and in support of a worker campaigning to be added to the board.
Given that Hyatt board member Penny Pritzker has been tapped by President Obama to be Commerce Secretary and is stepping down, hotel worker Cathy Youngblood has been campaigning to take her place. As she notes in a video promoting her campaign, “Penny Pritzker is stepping down from the board to be Commerce Secretary. So why not fill her slot with someone who actually works at a hotel?”
The Hyatt Hurts campaign and global boycott of the company called for by workers with the support of the Unite HERE union have been launched to bring attention to what they claim are unfair labor practices. The workers and the union claim that full-time staff have been fired and replaced by temp workers who make minimum wage; that workers are made to clean up to 30 rooms on an eight-hour shift, forcing them to rush and potentially injure themselves; and that the hotel chain tried to fire a dishwasher who refused to go back to work three days after a C-section. Two housekeepers have also claimed that they were fired after they protested Photoshopped images that superimposed their faces on bikini-clad women posted in the break room.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration at least partly backed up some of these claims when it sent a letter to the company warning that workers could face “ergonomic risk factors” on the job and urging the adoption of different equipment. OSHA sent inspectors to hotels in Illinois and Texas after workers filed injury complaints and found risk factors such as heavy lifting, bending, and twisting. The union states that OSHA and its state counterparts have issued 18 health and safety citations against the hotels.
Workers in the leisure and hospitality sector are generally paid low wages, making an average of about $13 an hour. They also have a slightly higher-than-average rate of injury and illness on the job, with four out of 100 workers reporting cases. Yet these jobs have been growing steadily since the recession, adding 43,000 in May.