FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Labor and Money Clash in 15 Cities

Contracts expire in 2010 for 45,000 hotel workers in ten cities and, on July 22, several thousand supporters demonstrated across the U.S. and Canada. This time Hyatt Hotels were targeted because “Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds,” according to the union, UNITE-HERE, AFL-CIO.

Simultaneous protests occurred in Chicago, Honolulu, San Francisco, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Rosemont, San Antonio, Santa Clara and San Diego with nearly 1000 activists arrested after engaging in peaceful civil disobedience blocking hotel entrances.

Apparently, there will be more to come of these coordinated national actions involving thousands of members and community allies. They are designed to keep pace with the expiration of contracts in a growing number of cities as it becomes clear hotel owners are stalling negotiations everywhere.

This will allow more hotel union locals to link up with close to 23,000 workers in San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles whose contracts lapsed almost one year ago.

The union gave a full explanation for this important escalation of tactics and strategy: “Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. [Yet], 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.”

How to Make Money

“I made my money the old fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before he died,” was famously said by the colorful Malcolm Forbes after he inherited from his father the equally famous magazine carrying the family name.

But don’t expect owners of the Hyatt Hotels, the Chicago-based Pritzker family, where inherited wealth has been passed along over four generations, to be as brutally honest as the late Mr. Forbes. They consistently rank among the ten richest American families but they may very well be justified in claiming their money was made in another equally reliable old-fashioned way – by selling high and paying low.

This is certainly the mantra of one of their largest family assets, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. It boasts a portfolio of 434 properties in 45 countries and, with $1.3 billion, had the most cash on hand of all its competitors at the end of 2009. The Pritzkers have always been  very good, at making money.

They are definitely practiced at selling high. A minority stake in the Hyatt sold in November 2009 and earned the family just under one billion dollars. And, they indeed know how to pay low. Only several months earlier, minimum-wage replacements were hired to replace the entire housekeeping staff at their three Boston hotels.

“I gave my body—everything I have—to that hotel, and Hyatt disposed of us like we were trash,” said Lucine Williams, who worked at the Hyatt Regency Boston for 21 years, before being abruptly fired and summarily replaced on August 31, 2009. UNITE-HERE reports that Lucine’s hotel made a profit of almost $5 million that year.

In fact, Hyatt management continually cuts staff and increases workloads at all their hotels. As a result, the chain had the highest injury rate for housekeepers last year in an academic study of 50 major hotels published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in February 2010.

Actually, since the late 1980s, the hotel industry as a whole has steadily reduced employees. The union reports that in 1988, nearly 71 workers were employed to service 100 occupied guestrooms. Last year, that number was down to 53 – a 25 per cent reduction.

This is why the industry is poised to make big profits. Occupancy rates are increasing while the workforce is not. “Expense reductions have been so dramatic at both the property and corporate level that even a modest pick-up in…growth should lead to outsized profit gains.” (Goldman Sachs, 8/9/2009)

How to Win Decent Contracts

The union is sending a clear message, stall negotiations and there will be increased national coordination of demonstrations, civil disobedience actions, and boycotts. This is in addition to the strike weapon which San Francisco Local 2, whose contracts expired in August 2009, has used both judiciously and effectively.

That local, with 9000 members, has a long history of mobilizing both its members and community allies. It has already successfully employed several three-day strikes of targeted hotels, numerous lobby protests by workers on lunch breaks and frequent “all-day, all-night picketing” of eight boycotted venues.

Yet, at the same time, the union is conscious that victory is more difficult fighting alone in one city, no matter how bold or militant. Members are also very clear about this from their experiences dealing with these giant investment conglomerates who have continuously rebuffed local efforts to achieve a decent contract.

“These are multi-national corporations, so, standing together with workers in other cities is key to defending our livelihoods,” said Local 2 Press Coordinator, Riddhi Mehta.

Thus, the stage is set for more national clashes between the hotels and labor, in the most old-fashioned of ways, with each mobilizing its own precious resources; one measured in cash, the other in people. Only this time, hotel workers have turned their adversaries’ chief weapon against them – more management stalling of negotiations locally means more union allies coming onboard nationally.

CARL FINAMORE was among 152 arrested in front of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt as another 1200 marched around the hotel. He is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, from Air Transport Employees, Local Lodge 1781, IAMAW. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail