Hotel Workers Expand Boycotts

UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union, has expanded boycotts across the U.S. The union is targeting Columbia-Sussex properties:

  • Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel, Maryland
  • Hilton Crystal City At National Airport, Arlington, Virginia
  • Westin Washington DC, District of Columbia
  • Wyndham Suites Chicago, Illinois
  • Westin Chicago Northwest Itasca, Illinois
  • Hilton Sacramento Arden West, California
  • Westin San Diego at Emerald Plaza, California
  • Anchorage Hilton, Alaska

Picketline outside the Westin Washington DC, March 26, 2010

UNITE HERE has also launched a boycott of the Providence Westin in Rhode Island.

All Three Hyatt Hotels in Boston are still under boycott. Bring back the Hyatt 100

A complete list of all boycotted hotels can be found through hotelworkersrising.org

Fed up with layoffs and pay cuts, hotel workers boycott 8 Columbia Sussex hotels

On March 25th, hotel workers told Columbia Sussex Corporation that they are tired of paying for the company's debt and want a fair process to organize a union at rallies around the country. Hotel workers called on customers to boycott 8 hotels owned by the company, according to UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union.

In Washington, DC, hotel workers and community supporters rallied outside the Westin City Center. "All workers must have the right to organize," declared DC City Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who then led a chant of "Boycott! Boycott!" at the Thursday demonstration. "A decent hotel must treat its workers decently," Mendelson said, promising to carry the protestors' message "back to my Council colleagues for more support." Sheraton City Center banquet server Karl Taylor was one of a busload of Baltimore hotel workers who made the trip "to support our brothers and sisters" at the Westin in DC. Columbia-Sussex owns both hotels, as well as others in Chicago and San Diego, where the boycott was also launched. “The union gives us a voice," Taylor said as more than 100 picketers chanted "Don't check in, check out" behind him. "

Columbia Sussex hotels in Northern Virginia, Sacramento and Alaska are already being boycotted. While Taylor and his fellow-workers in Baltimore already have a union, he said they support the Westin workers "who have been slammed with cuts and increased workloads" and want to form a union.

After hotel workers from Baltimore and Northern Virginia declared their support for the Westin workers, Metro Labor Council President Jos Williams wrapped up the rally by saying "This is a union city; if you're non-union we have no place for you in the nation's capital." Adding that Columbia-Sussex "now has a tri-state fight on their hands" Williams vowed that the metro-area labor movement would "stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you as long as it takes!"

- Credits: Chris Garlock;

Fed up with layoffs and pay cuts, hotel workers boycott 8 Columbia Sussex hotels


Westin workers call for a boycott of hotel

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, March 19, 2010

By Philip Marcelo

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Westin Providence hotel workers protesting management’s decision to unilaterally impose salary cuts and health-care increases called for a boycott of the downtown hotel Thursday, the first day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The union, whose contract expired in October, called on supporters to immediately stop patronizing the hotel and the Fleming’s Steakhouse located there until the hotel resumes negotiations, which were abruptly halted last Thursday. The hotel has said it is willing to resume talks in a year.

“In my 12 years here, they have never appreciated us. We made this hotel. Even when they threatened our jobs, we gave ‘four-diamond’ service,” Maria Ferreira, a housekeeper from Pawtucket, said as she picketed with other union members late Thursday afternoon.

“They’re taking food from my table. I had a balanced budget, now I’ll have to struggle,” said Albert Luyando, a Providence resident who works in the hotel fitness center.

Council 94, the state’s largest public employee union; the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents construction workers; and the Providence Central Labor Council said their members would honor the union’s boycott.

“Continue with this struggle,” Paul McDonald, president of the Providence Central Labor Council, said to hotel workers. What the hotel management did “is not right. This hurts workers, but it also hurts the people of Rhode Island who put so much in this hotel.”

According to the Procaccianti Group, the Cranston-based firm that owns the hotel, the new contract terms put in effect Sunday cut union salaries by 20 percent. Employees will contribute three to four times more per week for their health care, according to the union. Hotel workers will also now have to pay a $500 health-care deductible.

Since last Thursday, when the new terms were announced, members of Local 217 of Unite Here had voted on whether to authorize union leadership to call a strike or boycott, or both.

According to union member Aubrie Ramsay, 138 of the union’s 200 members voted in favor, with only two members voting against it. The union leadership then decided to call for a boycott, effective immediately, she said.

A large crowd of hotel workers, union activists and supporters marched and chanted in front of the hotel — a block from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, where the NCAA tournament was taking place — early in the morning Thursday and again around 4 p.m.Holding signs saying “Jobs with Justice” and “Westin Madness,” the protestors picketed until around 6:30 p.m., when they made their way to City Hall for the City Council meeting.

Ralph V. Izzi Jr., communications director for the Procaccianti Group, said in a statement prior to the union announcement that the hotel will remain fully operational during the busy weekend.

The Westin, one of eight Providence area hotels designated by the NCAA to host tournament visitors, is the hotel for Georgetown University’s basketball team, the college’s fans and media covering the tournament.

pmarcelo@projo.com

Westin workers call for a boycott of hotel


Ex-Hyatt workers find job market hard to penetrate
7 months after layoffs, dozens of housekeepers still unemployed

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / April 2, 2010

Lucine Williams has applied for countless jobs since she lost her housekeeping position last summer at the Hyatt Regency Boston, where she had worked for nearly 22 years. Shaw’s, CVS, Walgreens, Eddie Bauer, the MBTA, and several hotels have all been on her list.

“I even applied at McDonald’s,’’ said Williams, 42, one of the 98 Boston-area Hyatt housekeepers abruptly fired on Aug. 31 and replaced by the subcontracted cleaning company workers they had been training for months. But, she said, “Nobody calls.’’

Seven months after the firings and the considerable public attention that followed, more than 60 of the longtime housekeepers from the Hyatt Regency Boston, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and the Hyatt Harborside at Logan Airport are still unemployed, according to the local hospitality workers’ union, Unite Here Local 26. Their extended health benefits officially ended Wednesday.

The plight of the Boston-area Hyatt housekeepers, many of them immigrant women, illustrates the broader struggles of workers with lower income and education levels. The rate of underemployment and unemployment among housekeepers and janitors is 25 percent — the third-highest among 60 occupations studied and far higher than the overall rate of 15.4 percent, according to Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

“At the low end of the ladder, it’s not only that the unemployment rate is high, but that the number of applicants for every job is extraordinarily high,’’ Sum said.

Scrubbing toilets and changing sheets is not glamorous work, but the Hyatt housekeepers say they took pride in being able to support their families, both here and in their native countries, and in having health care and retirement plans. Many still get choked up when they talk about losing their jobs, which paid about $15 an hour — almost double what their minimum-wage replacements are making.

The Hyatt housekeepers refused to go quietly. More than half of them have been actively speaking out against the company, appearing at events around the country and contacting Hyatt clients to ask them to boycott the three local Hyatt hotels, an effort organized by Unite Here Local 26.

The housekeepers were not members of the union, but it took on their cause, holding high-profile rallies and pickets and drawing support from local politicians, including Governor Deval Patrick, who has encouraged state officials not to attend events at the billion-dollar hotel chain. Union officials estimate the efforts have cost Hyatt Hotels Corp. $3.7 million.

Hyatt, which said “challenging economic conditions’’ made the firings and outsourcing necessary, declined to comment on hotel revenue — and on what has happened in the seven months since the firings. But spokeswoman Amy Patti said it was interesting the union would “boast about actions they have taken to drive dollars away from Boston and put additional jobs at risk in this difficult economy.’’

The company responded to the initial outcry by extending the workers’ health benefits at no cost through the end of March and offering all of the housekeepers jobs with the outsourcing company, United Service Cos., at their Hyatt wages through the end of this year. Only six of the housekeepers took the hotel company up on its offer.

Of the remaining 92, about 25 have found work — as housekeepers, office cleaners, an airport concessions worker, a taxi driver, a grocery clerk. The rest are still looking.

Lucine Williams’s unemployment checks are helping her pay $500 a month to rent the upstairs apartment in her mother’s house in Dorchester, where she lives with her 14-year-old son. But anything extra goes on her credit card, and she says she is “in debt past my eyeballs.’’ Before her Hyatt health insurance ran out, she signed up for MassHealth, the Medicaid program for low-income residents, and tried to get her son one more prescription for his asthma medicine.

Being unemployed weighs heavily on Williams, who moved to Boston from Barbados in 1987. A few weeks ago, Williams went to speak to the Eastern Sociological Society, which moved its conference from the Cambridge Hyatt to the Park Plaza Hotel. When she started talking, she said, she began to cry.

“I think, ‘Oh, my God, look at me, here still at this time, and I still don’t have a job.’ And I start crying, and I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, but I can’t hold back the tears.’ ’’

Before Serandou Kamara lost her job at the Hyatt Harborside, she was saving up to buy a home. Now she and her husband are using that money to help pay the rent on the cramped $950-a-month Chelsea apartment where they live with their four children. They rely on Kamara’s $717 bimonthly unemployment checks and her husband’s $13-an-hour salary as a home health aide.

“Everything went into the garbage,’’ said Kamara, 32, who was almost eight months pregnant when she got fired.

Kamara spent a recent morning at Child Care Choices of Boston trying to secure a voucher to pay a baby sitter so she could look for work. Afterward, she walked through Downtown Crossing to see whether any stores were hiring. At Payless, Macy’s, Tello’s, and the food court, the answer was the same: no.

“I want a job,’’ said Kamara, a native of Sierra Leone who is taking a computer class and an English as a second language course at Bunker Hill Community College. “Sitting down at home, it’s not good for me.’’

When she runs into one of the replacement workers that she trained at the bus stop, she says, “I almost go crazy.’’

Not long after she was fired, Anna Rendon, one of Kamara’s former co-workers, bumped into a businessman who was a frequent guest at the Harborside. The two used to have conversations using each other’s native tongues and when she told him what happened, he vowed to switch hotels.

“I won’t ever return there,’’ Rendon, speaking in Spanish through a translator, recalled him saying.

For the past 14 years, Rendon, 52, has had a second job cleaning offices to help put two of her three sons through college. Her husband has been receiving worker’s compensation since a construction site accident three years ago. Their middle son got a scholarship to Boston College and is now studying to be an orthodontist in Rendon’s native Colombia.

Rendon still works nights cleaning offices and is enrolled in a seven-month, 30-hour-a-week English For Employment program at the YMCA International Learning Center on Huntington Avenue. She is hoping to land a bookkeeping job, like she had back home, but so far, she said, she has even been turned down for a job putting electronic equipment together.

Rendon said she and her co-workers were encouraged to treat the Harborside like their second home.

“I really respected the work,’’ she said. “We gave them all of our strength, all of our youth.’’

And she would take her job back if it were to be offered.

Four of the fired housekeepers recently started working at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, a union shop where they are allowed to wear their red “Bring Back the Hyatt 100!’’ buttons on their black uniforms. Wanda Rosario, Anna Wong, Rosa Lopez, and Joselin Luna — who between them had 62 years of Hyatt housekeeping experience — underwent Local 26’s six-week room attendant training program before landing at the Park Plaza.

Rosario will probably be called to work only a few days a week until the busy summer season starts. But with an 84-year-old father at home, a phone that is about to be disconnected, a sister in El Salvador to support, and a husband in the Dominican Republic trying to come to the United States, Rosario counts herself among the lucky ones.

When the Park Plaza housekeeping manager introduced her and her three former Hyatt cohorts at a staff meeting, their new co-workers started clapping.

“We feel like we’re adopted,’’ Rosario said.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.

The Boston Globe

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