Coalition Protests in Solidarity with Hyatt Workers Nationwide

In Long Beach, the Hyatt Regency saw roughly one hundred protesters—workers, clergy and community members—gathered together to call on the hotel to allow its workers a fair process for exercising their right to form a union. Among them were members of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community. The hotel, which is currently up for sale, is engaged in a lawsuit wherein employees of the hotel allege that management has failed to pay proper overtime and denied workers meal and rest breaks as required by law.

Many Long Beach community organizations participated in Thursday’s event, including Coalition members like Unite Here Local 11, Equal Roots, Evolver Long Beach, UAW 2865, AnakBayan, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), LB Area Peace Network, Long Beach Equality, and clergy from a variety of local parishes.

Coalition members joined thousands of hotel workers in 15 cities across North America, who held public demonstrations protesting Hyatt.  As part of these actions, hundreds of workers and supporters were arrested in coordinated acts of non-violent civil disobedience to express their outrage at how the company is trying to make the recession permanent for workers, despite significantly improving industry conditions and Hyatt’s rising share values.

The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community stood in solidarity with Hyatt workers today, joining their picket lines after staging a protest inside the hotel itself. Clergy members and community members addressed Hyatt Regency Long Beach management directly by going inside the hotel and calling publicly for the Hyatt Regency to do the right thing and respect their workers’ rights to organize.

“We were able to make a real statement to the hotel about the conditions here,” said Mike Day, President of the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB) and a steering committee member of the Coalition. “They need to know that the Long Beach community cares about the way these corporations do business here, and that we’re not going to let the Pritzkers—or any company—treat their workers unfairly anymore.”

The most prominent member of the Pritzker Family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain, is Penny Pritzker, the former national finance chairwoman of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  She now serves as a member of the President’s  Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).  Pritzker also runs TransUnion, a major credit-reporting company that has come under fire in recent months for contributing to the nation’s unemployment problem by selling credit information to employers to screen applicants.

Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. In the six months following Hyatt’s November initial public offering Hyatt’s shares were up over 65%. Despite these trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are still squeezing workers and cutting staff.  More than 115,000 jobs in the hotel industry have been cut since the recession began in 2008—46,000 of which have come just in the first quarter of 2010 as the industry has projected recovery. While this marks a trend involving several major hotel companies, Hyatt is the starkest example.

Aside from Long Beach’s action, other actions were held in Chicago, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Monterey, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Santa Clara and San Diego.   In 2010, citywide hotel contracts covering 45,000 unionized hotel workers in ten cities across the U.S. and Canada will expire and be subject to bargaining.

With photographs by Bella Peyser

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