Hyatt Hotel Workers and Local Activists Protest Alleged Worker Mistreatment in Scottsdale

Protestors took to the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch late last week as part of a national campaign by the Unite Here! labor union to protest what it says is the rampant mistreatment of workers employed at Hyatt hotels throughout the country.

The labor union's Hyatt Hurts campaign has staged protests in major U.S. cities throughout the week in a call for better working conditions for employees working in lower-level positions such as housekeeping, room service, and other service jobs at Hyatt hotels.

"I think that it was really awesome for us to see something like that happen in Scottsdale," Hyatt room service cashier Isabel Soto tells New Times. "It was really nice to see support from our community and [for] our employees to come there and stand with us."

Local activist organization Arrest Arpaio joined the protest to speak out against the alleged mistreatment as well.

Soto, who has worked at the Hyatt Regency for five years, says the biggest issue she's had while working at the resort is the high cost of health insurance.

"They have super expensive insurance for families, and I have two boys, " Soto says. "Insurance premiums [go up every year], but Hyatt doesn't actually give their employees raises every year."

She and other workers at the hotel have formed a committee to voice employee concerns, but Soto says attempts to unionize workers have been met with backlash from the hotel.

In a statement to New Times, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale says influence from Unite Here! has prevented workers from accepting contract proposals that would increase benefits and wages they receive from Hyatt.

"To maintain the campaign, UniteHere leaders have refused to allow Hyatt associates they represent at other hotels in other cities to vote on proposals containing the same wage and benefits packages the union accepted at Hilton, and Starwood," the statement says. "As a result, Hyatt associates represented by UniteHere have gone without the pay raises and benefits increases they deserve for nearby three years."

Soto says she's observed Hyatt treat many of its employees poorly since the first week she started working there. During that week, the hotel laid off landscape workers who had worked at the hotel for years and replaced them with subcontracted workers, she says.

United Here! contends that Hyatt practices subcontracting often, and that the replacement workers are also treated poorly, underpaid and overworked. In 2009, Hyatt laid off more than 90 housekeepers and brought in lower-paid subcontracted workers to replace them at three of its Boston hotels, organizers say.

"The average tenure of Hyatt housekeepers in the US is more than 12 years. [That's ] why at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa our associates have an average tenure of more than 12 years," the Hyatt Regency statement says. "Hyatt is consistently distinguished as a great place to work in independent surveys of our associates, including our housekeepers."

A number of other prominent labor union organizations have joined Unite Here! in its campaign against Hyatt, including the NFL Players Association, the National Organization for women and the AFL/CIO.

NFLPA union head DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to Hyatt's vice president of Human resources on July 21 asking Hyatt to publicly release data on its subcontracting, safety, and employee well-being practices.

Smith also asked Hyatt to address reports from housekeepers who say that they have been forced to clean on their hands and knees at times for lack of adequate equipment. Soto says housekeepers at the Scottsdale resort told her that they've had to clean up to 27 rooms in one day due to limited staff numbers.

Hyatt contends Unite Here! isn't really helping the workers.

"The UniteHere campaign is an attempt to boost union membership by organizing associates at more Hyatt properties through card check/neutrality, a non-democratic and often intimidating process," Hyatt tells New Times. "Last year, we offered UniteHere the opportunity to hold secret-ballot elections, but it refused, even though it [agreed] to 300 such elections at non-Hyatt hotels in recent years."

United Here! says last week's protest was the first hotel-worker strike in Scottsdale's history -- a claim which Hyatt denies.

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Jason Lewis
Contact: Jason Lewis