CHICAGO, Ill. – In Chicago – hometown to Hyatt Hotels and President Obama – Hyatt workers are launching protests against the nomination of Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary, just days before confirmations hearings begin. Hyatt workers have been locked in a protracted battle with Hyatt that has resulted in numerous strikes nationwide and a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels. Ms. Pritzker’s family built its financial empire with Hyatt Hotels and maintains a controlling interest in the company.
Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst hotel employer in the United States, leading the industry in outsourcing practices that destroy good jobs and hurt housekeepers. In a first for the hotel industry OSHA recently issued a companywide letter to Hyatt warning it of the hazards its housekeepers face on the job.
In Chicago, Hyatt workers have endured a four-year wage freeze amid contract negotiations that have stalled around issues of subcontracting and safer working conditions for housekeepers. In recent months, workers have appealed to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), which owns Hyatt McCormick Place, to push Hyatt to provide wage increases that would give financial relief to workers.
“Our wages have been frozen since 2009, and our families are suffering,” says Cristian Toro, a banquet server at the Hyatt Regency McCormick. “Hyatt has set a bad example for the rest of the hotel industry, and we’re taking a stand.”
“The Commerce Secretary’s first concern should be to create good, family sustaining jobs for all Americans,” says Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt housekeeper who has led a national campaign to elect a hotel worker to Hyatt’s Board of Directors. “Under Pritzker’s direction, Hyatt has led the hotel industry in a race to the bottom by aggressively subcontracting out career hotel jobs to minimum wage temps. This is not the model that will lead our country to a bright economic future.”
On May 2, President Obama announced his nomination of Penny Pritzker to Commerce Secretary. Confirmation hearings begin on Thursday, May 23rd. Ms. Pritzker has been a Director at Hyatt since 2004.
The cause of Hyatt workers has been championed by civil rights leaders nationally, including the National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).