Union members join Hyatt housekeepers in protest

May 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The protest lasted for about two hours and workers were back on the job by noon.

Negotiations between Hyatt management and union leaders on a new contract have been going on for the last ten months. Employees say on top of trying to work out terms for a new contract, their working conditions have gotten worse over the years.

Workers said they didn't expect to solve their problems with their walkout but wanted to show the Hyatt they are important to the hotel's operations. So members of United Here, a union that represents hospitality workers, showed solidarity by clogging the sidewalk in front of the hotel at 151 East Wacker for two hours.

"It's very hard to get people to leave their job, but they know in the end it's worth it to do. If we don't stand up now, then we won't win," said Tameka Snell, Hyatt employee.

The employees say the protest resulted from stalled contract negotiations and frustration of room attendants, who tried unsuccessfully to bring concerns about their increased workload to management. They say hotel renovations brought heavier beds and bedding, which cause injuries, and bigger windows to clean in the same amount of time of one room every half hour.

Their union president says they Hyatt does not compensate them with fair wages.

"Of all the hotel corporations one of the most abusive in their treatment of workers and their increase in work load for room attendants and other workers," said Henry Tamarin, president, United Here Local 1.

During their rally, employees were joined by members of the United Auto Workers Union, who suspended their conference at the Hyatt for the day to offer their support.

"I wanted to do some shopping today, but when our union brothers and sisters need our help, we want to stand here and help them," said David Green, UAW Local 1714.

After the rally, employees returned to their work at the hotel. Their union president said contract negotiations with the hotel will resume next month.

The Hyatt released a statement: Today's union action, however, is regrettable, especially in light of current economic conditions. We believe the most productive place to address important workplace matters is at the negotiating table.

Some hotel guests said the walkout did not disturb their stay at the hotel.

"I saw no difference in service here; all the people were very courteous. But I guess it's a sad state when they have to do that and feel like they're not getting treated properly," said Joe Cardenas, Hyatt guest.

The union president said the hotel has refused to deal with the union and at one point barred union representatives from entering the building.

The union says more demonstrations are possible in the future, but formal contract talks are scheduled to resume next month.

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