Hundreds of workers at two downtown Hyatt hotels popular with tourists walked off the job Thursday in a one-week strike, part of a coordinated action at other hotel branches around the country.
The strikes at the Hyatt Regency at Embarcadero Center and the Grand Hyatt near Union Square involve 700 employees, including housekeepers, cooks, doormen and bellmen.
Workers have been without a new contract for two years, and have held two prior three-day strikes, in addition to calling for a boycott of Hyatt. Thursday’s action coincided with similar strikes at Hyatt hotels in Chicago, Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Unite Here Local 2 spokeswoman Julia Wong called Hyatt “the most abusive employer in the industry,” citing a high rate of housekeeper injuries, overworked employees and the company’s “aggressive outsourcing” of jobs to new workers paid minimum wage and no benefits.
Hyatt and the union agreed to new wage and benefit provisions earlier this year, but the sticking point now is that the union is asking for the right to strike on behalf of other Hyatt workers, a provision Hyatt spokesman Pete Hillan called “unprecedented.”
“It is really dangerous territory for the business and for the stability of the members of the union,” Hillan said.
Wong insisted the strike was about having the right “to fight back against Hyatt’s abuses wherever they happen.”
Members of hotel management are taking over the workers’ duties for the week, according to Hillan, who said both hotels were “fairly well booked and everything’s running normally.”
However, the strike has affected the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which is holding meetings for high-level officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at several San Francisco hotels, among them the Regency, from Sunday to Sept. 26.
“Certain high-level meetings and some functions have been moved to other hotels,” said host committee spokesman Paul Oliva.
“We anticipated this coming and we expect to go through the seven days and we’ll welcome our employees back when Local 2 is done with its street theater,” Hillan said.
About 20 to 30 workers picketed and leafleted outside the Hyatt Regency Thursday afternoon. The few guests outside the hotel seemed unaffected by the display. One man, asked if the strike gave him second thoughts about doing business at the hotel, replied “Not at all.”
Hyatt workers: 3rd strike a charm?