Unions target hotel chain owned by Obama supporters with ‘global boycott’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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On Monday, Richard Trumka’s AFL-CIO and a host of other labor unions and liberal activists will publicly target Hyatt, the hotel chain owned by wealthy supporters of President Barack Obama.

Trumka, the NFL Players Association’s executive director DeMaurice Smith and the Center for Community Change’s executive director Deepak Bhargava, among others, plan to call for a “global boycott” of the company at a 10 a.m. press conference at the National Press Club. In a release announcing the call for a “global boycott,” the liberal political figures said this is “the largest escalation to date in an ongoing campaign for basic workers rights.”

“Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry by abusing its housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposing dangerous and health-threatening workloads on those who remain,” the release reads.

Perhaps most significantly, the escalating battle between Big Labor and Hyatt represents another issue of tension between Big Labor and President Obama during his re-election campaign. Billionaire Penny Pritzker, part of the family that owns Hyatt, served as Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign national finance chair. Her cousin Thomas Pritzker, who serves as executive chairman of Hyatt, has also been a noted supporter of the president.

Penny Pritzker hasn’t reprised her center-stage role in Obama’s re-election campaign. The New York Times has speculated that Pritzker may be taking a backseat this year because, among other things, she and Hyatt have become a “target” of Big Labor.

“As she served on White House councils alongside Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, his organization released a video that cast her [Pritzker] as a villainess who hurt rather than helped the economy,” a New York Times story from last week reads.

Trumka has expressed, on behalf of the labor union community, disapproval of Obama — so much so that he’s not taking his union members to the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina this September. Trumka’s AFL-CIO is breaking off to form their own convention because the union is so disillusioned with Obama and the Democratic Party.

Trumka’s event — titled “Workers Stand for America” — will take place in Philadelphia on Aug. 11.

At a recent event in Washington, Trumka said his union would be targeting “friends and foes” this election cycle.

“We’ll be forcing people,” he said. “We’ll be a little more aggressive with friends and foes in the next election when it comes to things like fair treatment and dignity on the job and the ability of workers to have a place that they call home. We’ll be a little more aggressive with those things and a little less, let’s say, understanding.”

In the release ahead of Monday morning’s event calling for a “global boycott” of Hyatt, the unions list what they consider the “four top reasons” to do so.

First, they say that Hyatt is engaging in subcontracting that is “destroying good jobs and exploiting immigrant workers.”

“Hyatt housekeepers suffer abuse and face dangerous workloads,” the second point reads.

Thirdly, the unions say “Hyatt has refused to remain neutral as non-union hotel workers organize.”

Fourth, they say that hotel executives “turned heat lamps on striking workers during a brutal heat wave.”

The labor unions also plan to attack the hotel company’s reputation by encouraging millions of people to go online and “Vote Hyatt the Worst Hotel Employer in America.”

UPDATE 1:48 p.m.:

Hyatt responded to the union campaign against it by calling the tactics “an attempt to boost union membership at non-union Hyatt hotels through card check, a non-democratic and often-intimidating process for workers.”

“While UniteHere leaders are pursuing more dues-paying members, and raising dues on Chicago members an astonishing 10 percent, Hyatt has been putting its associates first by protecting their right to a fair choice and standing ready to pay the raises they should have had three years ago,” Doug Patrick, Hyatt Hotels Corporation’s senior vice president of human resources, said in a statement. “It’s our associates who make a difference in the lives of Hyatt guests and coworkers each day. Their wellbeing is fundamental to our success, and we want to reach an agreement so they can get the pay and benefits they deserve.”

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