Hyatt targeted as labor impasse drags on

Pub date February 11, 2011
WriterCarly Nairn
SectionPolitics Blog

Hundreds of Hyatt hotel workers and supporters represented by the UniteHere Local 2 union continued their 18-month long struggle against the Hyatt Corporation yesterday (Thu/10) by protesting outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel near the Embarcadero.

The Hyatt Regency was one of six hotels where demonstrations took place in a National Day of Action against Hyatt management. Local 2 said many issues still need to be negotiated, such as decreasing the current health care costs of $200 a month for a family plan, raising pensions from $900 to $1200 a month, and taking steps to reduce injuries to Hyatt employees.

“We want to draw attention to the injury rate that Hyatt has been witness to,” Local 2 spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer said.

The protest, which started at 4:30 p.m., surrounded the front entrance of the Hyatt Regency on Drumm and Market Streets, with protestors sitting in front of its turnstile doors. About two dozen protestors were arrested, cited and released on charges of misdemeanor trespassing.

The Hyatt Corporation’s statement on yesterday’s actions tried to turn the blame on the union, stating they haven’t been willing to come to the bargaining table. “Once again, the leadership of UniteHere Local 2 is putting its own agenda ahead of the needs of its members,” the statement said.

Cynthia Reed, a telephone operator with the Hyatt for 22 years, who was a part of the protest, was angered that she has been without a fair contract since August 2009.

“I feel as though we are being oppressed,” she told the Guardian. “We, the workers, are living off $38,000 a year with $12,000 in taxes. We can’t live like this in San Francisco. We just want a living wage.”

Reed noted that some of her co-workers include parents of multiple children and cancer patients, while others are over retirement age. “If the union doesn’t stand up for us, who will?” Reed asked. “Why patronize these facilities when all the money is going to a few at the top?” she wondered before going back to a line of picketers chanting, “Union bustin’ is disgustin’!”

Peter Hillan, a spokesman that represents the Hyatt, was at the scene to give the corporation’s point of view. “It’s street theater,” he said of the event. “It’s taking revenue away from the business that could be going to the employees.”

Hillan said that over the past 18 months, the protests and the union’s call to boycott the hotels have taken about $10 million of convention business away from San Francisco’s Hyatts.

A meeting to discuss contract negotiations with the Hyatt Corporation and Local 2 is set for Feb. 24.