Why Tempe hotel workers are striking during ASU’s graduation week | Phoenix New Times

Why Tempe hotel workers are striking amid ASU’s graduation week

Workers at Hyatt's Tempe Mission Palms have been without a collective bargaining agreement with the hotel for a year.
Workers at the Hyatt-owned Tempe Mission Palms picketed on Tuesday to demand a fair contract.
Workers at the Hyatt-owned Tempe Mission Palms picketed on Tuesday to demand a fair contract. Courtesy of Unite Here Local 11
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Yusuf Al-Shabazz has worked at Tempe Mission Palms since November. He’s a line cook for two of the hotel’s restaurants and for room service. But now, in the face of what he describes as poor working conditions, the 20-year-old is on strike.

Al-Shabazz was one of roughly two dozen hotel workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 who took to the streets Tuesday — for the second day in a row, right as Tempe hotels are filling up for Arizona State University’s graduation weekend — to demand higher wages, an affordable health care plan, a pension and “fair and human workloads,” according to a press release by the union.

Workers at Tempe Mission Palms have been left without a collective bargaining agreement with the hotel, part of the Destination by Hyatt brand, since the previous agreement expired roughly one year ago. Al-Shabazz said Hyatt has been unwilling to return to the bargaining table.

“They haven’t been offering any new dates for negotiation or attempting to settle for a new contract or anything,” he said, adding that workers are treated poorly. “The way they discipline workers is very inconsistent and unfair.”

The striking workers were joined Tuesday by several members of Democratic state lawmakers, including Sens. Mitzi Epstein and Juan Mendez. Mendez notably went on a hunger strike in 2015 when the union first sought recognition from Hyatt.

“I talked to so many workers today that have put in over 30 years with Tempe Mission Palms. Employers should be blessed, should think of themselves as honored to have that kind of commitment out of their workers,” Mendez told Phoenix New Times. “The bare minimum would be that you take care of them if they’re going to put that much of their life into your business, into your profit.”

In 2015, Tempe Mission Palms finally recognized the union after reaching a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board. Prior to the recognition, workers had alleged they were interrogated, threatened and subjected to coercive rules.

Some problems have persisted. For Al-Shabazz, health care is a primary concern. “I wanted to strike because one of the things our union is fighting for is free health care provided by the hotel," he said. He does not want to worry constantly about his physical and mental health.

Victoria Stahl, a communications organizer for Unite Here Local 11, facilitated the strike and joined the workers.

“Inflation has really gone up the last few years, and we found that workers are really struggling because wages haven’t kept up,” Stahl said. “Bettering the benefits that we already have is going to allow workers to live their lives and not continue to struggle paycheck to paycheck.”

Michael D'Angelo, the head of labor relations for the Americas at Hyatt Hotels Corp., issued a statement in response to the strike. In it, he refuted the union’s claim that Hyatt has stalled talks and said the hotel “remains willing to negotiate” and has “offered Local 11 numerous dates to bargaining” that have gone unanswered. D'Angelo added that the massive hotel company “has a long history of cooperating with unions that represent our employees, including Unite Here Local 11.”

"We remain committed to bargaining in good faith and look forward to negotiating a fair contract with Local 11 inclusive of strong wages and health care benefits and a pension for employees," he added.

Al-Shabazz said the ball is in the hotel’s court. The union will continue to strike until things change.

“Right now, we don’t have a specific amount of days that we’ve set for how long the strike will go,” Al-Shabazz said. “That all kind of depends on whether the hotel decides to settle for a new contract.”
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