December 13, 2012
In demonstrations nationwide, workers say “someone like me” will make Hyatt a better company for employees and shareholders alike
[San Francisco and Santa Clara] Hyatt hotel workers will hold demonstrations today in San Francisco and Santa Clara today, urging Hyatt to add a hotel worker to its board of directors. In recent years, Hyatt has faced tough criticism for its record of labor abuses. Now housekeepers say they have a simple solution to move Hyatt in a new direction. In events nationwide this week, Hyatt workers are urging the company to add a hotel worker to its board of directors. Workers say Hyatt would be better off if someone who served hotel guests at some point in the last decade actually had a say in how the company is run.
The national week of action began Tuesday at Hyatt headquarters in Chicago, where hotel workers submitted a resolution to the company for consideration by the directors, who are expected to meet on the date of the next shareholders meeting in June 2013. Hyatt workers in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Baltimore, Phoenix, Honolulu and Seattle are also holding actions this week.
“I’ve been cleaning rooms and taking care of guests for Hyatt for 37 years,” says Grand Hyatt housekeeper Antonia Cortez. “I think having someone like me on the board of directors would help Hyatt work better for the company, the customers, and the workers.”
Currently, Hyatt has twelve directors on its board. The new resolution proposes that a 13th board member be added from the ranks of Hyatt’s staff. Current board members include Tom and Penny Pritzker of the billionaire Pritzker family, Hyatt’s CEO Mark Hoplamazian, and Greg Penner, an heir to the Walmart fortune, among others. Penner, who lives in the Bay Area, also sits on the board of Walmart. Other board members have ties to Goldman Sachs, private equity firms worth billions, and major brands like Royal Caribbean. None of the biographies published by Hyatt of current board members shows any having experience as a hotel worker.
Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry by abusing its housekeepers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposing health-threatening workloads on those who remain. In a first in the hotel industry, the federal government issued a letter to Hyatt earlier this year, warning the company of hazards their housekeepers face. Workers say that adding someone with recent guest experience to the Board could reshape Hyatt’s staffing policies and improve Hyatt’s image.