What’s Up with the Global Hyatt Boycott?

Have whistles, bullhorns and protestors disturbed your sleep with a Hyatt Hotel strike this past week?

Last week Monday, July 23 a campaign for a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels was launched and made the news in hundreds of online sources and regional print papers.

On July 23, Hyatt workers and allies launched a global boycott of Hyatt hotels. Leaders from the AFL-CIO, NFL Players Association, the National Organization for Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Netroots Nation, Interfaith Worker Justice and other organizations joined Hyatt housekeepers at a press conference in Washington, D.C., to formally launch the boycott. The launch marks the largest escalation to date in an ongoing campaign for basic worker rights.

Those who spoke at the press conference confirmed their organizations will stand in solidarity with Hyatt’s workers and not patronize the company’s facilities.


The Hyatt Hotels boycott centers around the union UniteHere which is the major union organization that represents unionized housekeepers and service workers in U.S. hotels.

Hyatt Hotels responded with a July 23 full-page Washington Post message:

Standing Up for the Rights of Our Hyatt Associates

A deep respect for our associates – the people who provide hospitality to Hyatt guests around the world – is central to our culture and fundamental to our success. We’re very proud that Hyatt hotels are great places to work. And that’s not just our opinion:

— We received the 2012 Gallup Great Workplace Award based on independent surveys of our associates, including our housekeepers, whose average tenure with us is more than 12 years.

— Media from Baltimore and Chicago to Denver and San Francisco have honored Hyatt on their Best Places to Work lists.

— We have been honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Hispanic Business magazine and the NAACP for our support of our LGBT, Hispanic and African- American employees.

— CareerBliss recently named Hyatt the happiest hotel company.

By any measure, Hyatt maintains an outstanding safety record, provides industry-leading wage and benefits packages, and is a recognized leader in promoting a diverse workforce.

So why is the leadership of the union UniteHere waging a campaign against our company?

UniteHere’s claims are an attempt to boost membership by pressuring Hyatt to allow the union to organize more hotels through the intimidating “card-check” process. We believe our associates have the right to a secret ballot. Last year, we petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold supervised secret-ballot elections at our non-union hotels. The union flatly refused to participate.

To get their way, UniteHere leaders have denied members they already have – our associates in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Waikiki – the right to vote on contracts containing wage increases that are the same as those the union has accepted at Hilton and Starwood hotels. The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago recently found that UniteHere has bargained in bad faith and made illegal demands during contract negotiations.

While union leaders direct precious members’ dues toward publicity stunts, we stand ready to pay the raises our associates should have gotten long ago, which will be delivered upon completion of new contracts. And now, the call for a global boycott of Hyatt will have a direct and negative impact on our associates, who depend on business in their hotels for their livelihoods.

Our union associates are being used in the union leaders’ self-serving campaign to increase union membership and dues. It is time for UniteHere leaders to do the right thing for the members and families they’re paid to represent by calling for a contract vote.


Two comments on the Hyatt Hotels message:

1. Card Check for unionization was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969. Wikipedia has a good Card Check articlethat explains the reasoning behind support and opposition to Card Check for creating a union workforce.

2. Hyatt Hotels claims UniteHere refused to let members vote on a wage increase employees of other hotel chains approved. From what I have read in the UniteHere union articles, the main issues against Hyatt Hotels are working conditions and subcontracting hotel jobs. Subcontracting is a major factor for UniteHere since these workers are not employees of Hyatt Hotels.

Here is what UniteHere claims are the problems with Hyatt Hotels:

Top Four Reasons to Boycott Hyatt

  • Hyatt’s subcontracting is destroying good jobs and exploiting immigrant workers.
  • Hyatt housekeepers suffer abuse.
  • Hyatt has refused to remain neutral as non-union hotel workers organize.
  • Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers during a brutal heat wave.

1. Hyatt’s subcontracting is destroying good jobs and exploiting immigrant workers.


Rabbi Barbara Penzner addresses a Hyatt 100 vigil in Boston.

On August 31, 2009, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels in the Boston area, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with workers from a temporary agency. Many of the fired workers report that Hyatt required that they train their replacements. Their replacements now earn minimum wage and clean as many as 30 rooms a day. Few if any of the subcontracted workers receive health insurance.

The story of the “Hyatt 100” represents just one dramatic example of how Hyatt’s aggressive use of subcontractors is destroying good jobs. Using subcontractors allows Hyatt to pay housekeepers poverty wages while evading legal liability for unsafe working conditions or hiring undocumented workers.

On January 9, 2012 in Indianapolis, subcontracted hotel workers filed a federal wage and hour violations lawsuit against the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, the subcontractor Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS), and nine other major hotels. Ten days later, Hyatt announced that it had cut its contract with HSS, putting in jeopardy the jobs of 20 hotel workers.

2. Hyatt housekeepers suffer abuse.

Hotel housekeepers are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. The grittier aspects of their jobs—the work of scrubbing toilets, changing sheets, and encountering guests alone behind closed doors—are the hidden foundation on which an atmosphere of luxury and comfort are built.

Today, Hyatt housekeepers from across North America are stepping out of the shadows to demand an end to the abuses they face at work. Hyatt has eliminated jobs, replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed dangerous workloads on those who remain.

In a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examining a total of 50 hotel properties from 5 different hotel companies, Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers studied when compared by hotel company.

Over time, cleaning hotel rooms can lead to debilitating injuries that in some instances require surgical intervention, physical therapy, or lead to permanent disability, like the loss of the full use of one’s arm. Lifting mattresses that can weigh over 100 pounds, pushing heavy carts across carpeted hallways, bending up and down to clean floors and make beds, and climbing to clean high surfaces all take a physical toll.

Housekeepers at some Hyatts clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is typically required at union hotels. This leaves room attendants as little as 15 minutes to clean a room.

Hyatt Housekeepers have filed health and safety complaints with the U.S. government. In 2011, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA )or its state counterparts issued 18 citations against the Hyatt at 11 hotels and 3 citations against one of the Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors at one of those hotels. The citations alleged violations of various safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees and proposed over $100,000 in penalties.

Hotel housekeepers frequently clean bathroom floors on their hands and knees, a degrading practice that is tolerated by too many hotel employers. This practice, combined with the failure to provide fitted sheets like those used in homes, has led to an unacceptable rate of back and other work-related injuries. In 2011, Hyatt took the lead in opposing a bill to end “on our knees” bathroom cleaning and backbreaking bed-making practices.

In late September, the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, California, fired two housekeepers, sisters Martha and Lorena Reyes. These middle aged mothers were featured on a digitally-created collage of bikini-clad “Hyatt Housekeepers” on a bulletin board at work. Humiliated by their depiction, Marta removed her image and that of her sister. Soon after, both sisters were fired. The sisters have filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In subsequent sexual harassment trainings, management denied that it had objectified women’s bodies or engaged in any damaging act.

3. Hyatt has refused to remain neutral as non-union hotel workers organize.

In Indianapolis, San Antonio, Scottsdale, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Long Beach, workers have called on Hyatt to accept a fair process to enable them to choose whether or not to join a union without employer intimidation. Hyatt has refused. Workers in non-union facilities complain of disrespect from their management, low wages, unaffordable health insurance and high room quotas for room cleaners.

4. Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers in Chicago during a brutal heat wave.

On July 21, 2011, heat lamps in the awning above the Park Hyatt Chicago front entrance were turned on striking workers the morning a strike began. Heat lamps were left on for about an hour and turned off shortly after reports about them surfaced in the press. That day, an excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service, with heat index readings climbing above 100 degrees in downtown Chicago.

Hyatt released a public statement the following day, admitting that a manager was responsible for turning heat lamps on striking workers.

More resources:


In my research of the Hyatt Boycott I found that nearly all the hotel trade journals and mainstream newspapers simply posted the Hyatt Hotels press release with no analytical or investigative insight.

The pro-boycott articles all mention the same points listed in the Hyatt Hurts message.

Regardless if you support Hyatt Hotels or UniteHere, there is a chance you will come across a protest if you are staying in a major city at a Hyatt Hotel.

Here is a list of several hotels UniteHere states are exempt from the global boycott.

The call to “Boycott Hyatt” does not include the

  • Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Grand Hyatt Kauai, which have current collective bargaining agreements with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU),

and does not include the following Hyatt hotels with current UNITEHERE! collective bargaining agreements:

  • Grand Hyatt New York,
  • Andaz 5th Avenue,
  • Andaz Wall Street,
  • Hyatt Highlands Inn Hotel (Highway One Monterey),
  • Hyatt Regency Monterey,
  • Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing,
  • Hyatt Regency Atlanta,
  • Hyatt Regency Dearborn (Michigan),
  • Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center,
  • Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina,
  • Hyatt Regency on King (Toronto),
  • Park Hyatt Toronto,
  • Hyatt Regency Vancouver,
  • Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill,
  • Hyatt Rosemont
  • Hyatt Place San Jose.


Is $3 per day really too much to spend on your housekeeper?

Reading all these articles about housekeepers reminded me of the long-standing poll on the front page of the blog One Mile at a Time.

When staying at a hotel, do you tip housekeeping?

  • Yes 47% = 4,476 votes
  • No 34% = 3,293 votes
  • Only for Special Requests 19% = 1,831 votes

Total Voters = 9,601


More information:

Hyatt Hotels website: http://www.hyattworkplace.com/

UniteHere website: http://www.hyatthurts.org


Loyalty Traveler original post link: http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2012/07/31/whats-up-with-the-global-hyatt-boycott/

Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »


  1. I have no special knowledge of the facts, and like you Ric am simply reading the press releases and regurgitations of those press releases.

    It certainly seems like there are a lot of overclaims being made across the board here.

    But what in the world is the NFL Players Association doing involved in this?

    And is it really worth bulleting out ONE incident in which ONE day ONE manager at ONE hotel (on his last day on the job, if I remember correctly?) turned heat lamps on striking workers? Probably shouldn’t have done it. But it’s pretty clearly a single isolated incident, and not as though the striking workers have always behaved well either, certainly they’ve woken many a sleeping guest!

    Ultimately Hyatt seems like a pretty decent place to work. It may be hard work. It may not always be the best paid work (although not clear it’s that much worse than industry standard).


    (1) Hard to get too worked up, not like there’s desperation and abuse being specifically described here, the word abuse is thrown about but without anything to substantiate it. This isn’t children being locked in a factory that’s burned down, the kind of stuff that we all need to get behind and do something about. It’s ultimately a dispute over contract terms — and mostly about whether the hotels can hire non-union workers.

    (2) If the issue is outsourcing then Hyatt is right that it’s about union membership, the union objects to Hyatt hotels having non-union workers.

    (3) Card check may be legal but certainly not required, doesn’t seem improper for Hyatt to insist on secret ballots if a union wants to organize.

    I agree with you, Ric, that we should have tipping at U.S. properties and as Americans more at the forefront of our minds. At least at non-union hotels where housekeepers aren’t on strike. 🙂

  2. I wish you would stick to travel writing. I hate reading your pro-union propaganda. When I see these articles pop up from time to time, it makes me not want to read your blog ever.

  3. I wish you would stick to travel writing. I hate reading your pro-union propaganda. When I see these articles pop up from time to time, it makes me not want to read your blog ever.

  4. Whether I am pro union or not, as a reader of many Boarding Area blogs, I appreciate the diversity of voices found here. This is an issue for any traveler that stays in any hotel, not just Hyatt’s. Almost all workers that are low wage or even minimum wage are more likely to be at risk of exploitation. I am happy to be reminded of what the work of hotel workers can be like, even if it may be something that makes me uncomfortable.

  5. @ArkasasTraveler Pro-union propaganda? Ric presents both sides of the argument with pretty neutral commentary and it’s pro-union propaganda? :rolleyes:

    While I would never stay at a hotel whose own workers we’re striking, situations like this are more difficult. I’m certainly not ready to join the boycott without doing more reading.

  6. Thank you for your balanced report on Hyatt Hotels’ labor dispute. I think it will raise the consciousness of many readers.

    Hotel housekeepers perform back-breaking work but their efforts are often invisible to even the most frequent of travelers. When travelers say they don’t see abuse or self-indulgently complain about the noise from picketers I would ask them to try the job of a housekeeper for just one day. I am certain their perception of the situation will change.

    Keep on reporting this issue. Some may wish to keep their heads in the sand or appease their conscience by leaving a tip, but all travelers need to be reminded about the blood, sweat and tears that go into getting their hotel room cleaned.

  7. I have a simple test. If the Housekeeping is unionized then no tip.

    If they belong to a union, then they obviously don’t mind wasting money on union dues so they need no tip.

    If you don’t like the working conditions, then quit.
    Seems the issue here is the union doesn’t like the fact that people want to work and don’t want to pay union dues.

  8. If the unions are boycotting Hyatt, then I will happily spend my money there.

    How many readers of this blog run a business? Would you want to have a union in between you and your employees telling you how much you’re going to pay them, what their working conditions will be like and what they will or won’t do in their jobs? I bet not. That’s why I was surprised to see such sympathy in the comments for these thuggish tactics by the unions to intimidate Hyatt.

    The unions have outlived any usefulness they may have had long ago. They need to wither and die (which they are in the private sector) like the leeches they are. They produce nothing, no wealth or value, but instead they leech off of the productive. They are in the same class as government and lawyers.

  9. Sam and David,

    I was preparing to reply to this story, but I couldn’t have said it any better myself. You nailed it.

  10. @Gary – I think the heat lamp issue is one that should not have been put out in front as a reason for this union boycott.

    Hyatt Hotels Corporate Communications sent me an email after this article was published with a rebuttal to each of the boycott points from UniteHere:

    “Regarding subcontracting:

    More than nine out of ten workers at U.S. Hyatt hotels are Hyatt employees. On an as needed basis, and like virtually all hotel management companies, Hyatt uses staffing companies to perform certain functions at our hotels so we can respond effectively to fluctuations in business levels and can operate efficiently. In all cases, we take any decision to engage staffing companies very seriously.

    Our use of staffing companies complements our ongoing search for great associates to join the Hyatt family. We’re currently seeking to fill nearly 900 open positions in North America.

    Regarding workload:

    Hyatt has an outstanding safety record, and we constantly work to improve our work environments through training, worker feedback, wellness programs, employee recognition, and other initiatives. Our associates have the tools, resources and training they need to do a great job, and we also employ occupational health nurses to assist in injury prevention and treatment. Contrary to union claims, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently inspected many Hyatt properties across the country and found each to be in full compliance with its standards. Hyatt shares the same interest in ensuring employee safety and a healthy workplace as OSHA, and we will continue to pursue a collaborative relationship with the agency in support of that interest.

    Maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness is crucial to providing our guests with the hospitality they’ve come to expect from Hyatt. Housekeeping can be hard work, but we provide our associates with the time and tools necessary to do a great job. Our Refresh housekeeping program assigns our housekeepers a number of credits, as opposed to a set number of rooms, to clean each day. Depending on the hotel, a credit can be equivalent to a standard room or it can vary depending on the size of the room or the state of the room’s cleanliness. Credits can be reduced depending on the check-out versus stay-over status of the rooms assigned, ensuring that our housekeepers have enough time to clean their assigned rooms and can do so successfully.

    Regarding staying neutral:

    At the core of Hyatt’s culture and values is respect for our associates, and we are proud of our policies and initiatives to maintain a fair, professional workplace with opportunities for our associates to thrive. Hyatt has a long history of strong relations with our unions. We continue to reach agreements and have productive relationships with unions such as the Teamsters, SEIU, Electrical Engineers and Workers United. At Hyatt, we are pro-employee because the satisfaction and wellbeing of our associates is fundamental to the success of our business. Hyatt fully supports our associates right to organize and have productive relationships with a union. That said, we believe our associates should have a right to say “yes” or “no” to a union with a democratic secret-ballot election as the National Labor Relations Board has provided for more than 75 years. UniteHere already agree to 300 secret-ballot elections at non-Hyatt hotels over the past five years, including several such elections this year.

    Regarding heat lamps:

    Hyatt’s core values are based on mutual respect. The incident which occurred at one of our hotels in Chicago was an isolated incident and the person who made the decision to turn on the heater is no longer with the company. Immediately following the incident, Hyatt expressed regret about what occurred and apologized to everyone who was affected. It was clearly a decision that was not in line with our values or with our corporate policies. This unacceptable behavior was certainly not illustrative of our culture. Hyatt has a long history of respecting our associates’ rights and caring about their well-being.”

  11. As I understand it, Ric was a teacher and his wife is currently a teacher. So, it is quite understandable that he supports unions and the article has a slight union slant. Especially on the left coast! I do think he tried to be fair though.

    FYI, I think unions’ beneficial purpose is to address safety and abuse issues. I think they are detrimental when they focus on shifting money from your pockets to theirs – either the workers or union management. What would you do if some of the grocery stores in your town joined a grocers union and said you should pay 5% more for your groceries because their profit margins are too little(and sometimes negative)?

    I also don’t know if housekeepers like me or hate me. Because of my sensitivity to the cleaning products they use, I don’t like having the room done while I’m there. On a recent 7 night stay, the Do Not Disturb sign stayed on the door. I tipped for a change of towels and left a nice tip at the end. So they had less work to do and make good money, but if enough people do like I did, then there would be less housekeeping jobs. The hotel also had a $2 daily surcharge for housekeeping. Not sure how that is handled on their end.

    I’m confused about a few issues:

    Although I mop my bathroom floor, I frequently have to do the edges on my hands and knees also. Is that bad? Or is it the doing it all day part? Every job has bad aspects to it. The hotel I stayed at a couple of weeks ago had small enough bathrooms that I don’t see the point of a mop unless you had a big spill.

    I like fitted sheets. I think they are/would be a pain for housekeepers to change. Why is the weight of a mattress relevant since no one I know lifts the whole mattress to change sheets?

    Why does UniteHere not like subcontractors? Can’t they just unionized the subcontractor? Work with Hyatt on setting appropriate contract provisions with the subcontractors and let Hyatt change subcontractors if one, like HSS, doesn’t perform.

    Saying that union workers take twice as long to clean a room as non-union workers is an argument in favor of unions?

    The Indianapolis issue with Hospitality Staffing Solutions doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like HSS (since it wasn’t specific to Hyatt) mistreated workers. Hyatt cuts the contract with HSS; punishing those who mistreat workers. Then the union complains about punishing those who mistreat workers? Or are they complaining about those 20, presumably union, workers losing their job at the company that mistreats workers and possibly going to work for whichever company replaces HSS and possibly be with another union or non-union?

    Unions don’t want an independent third party secret ballot. They complain that the employer has better access to the employees. You know, those same ones that they were able to get to sign cards. They object to employers being able to pay workers while they express why they don’t like unions. I wish politicians had to pay me when they expressed their views! And the union is free to pay employees to attend a meeting where the union expresses their view. Oh yeah, the union wants employees to pay them, not to pay the employees more. Silly me.

    Seems like the fact that they are boycotting Hyatts that don’t have current agreements with this union or a sister union instead of ones where workers are abused makes it more about increasing union membership than worker treatment.

    I like freedom of choice. Whether it is the right to: Vote in private.
    Express your views (in reasonable tones of voice, respecting my right to privacy and quiet in my home or hotel room).
    Cut a contract with a company that mistreats workers.
    Pay employees a wage comparable to other to that approved by other hotel chains.
    Choose a job where you get paid better or treated better.
    Figure out how to add more value so you can earn more money.
    Stay in a cheaper hotel.
    Stay in a union hotel.
    Stay in a non-union hotel.
    Learn how to save money by using loyalty programs.
    Live in a country like the USA.
    Express my views on Ric’s blog!

  12. a “labor dispute” went on in the Knoxville area (still going?) for several years at a grocery store, restaurant chain, and medical centers over a contractor/subcontractor hiring non-unionized labor to do work.

    YEARS, this happened. They brought lawn chairs with canopies and sat out there all day behind their 15x4ft sign that said “SHAME ON XXXXXX”. Actually, the union paid random people (like the ones you see holding the “going out of business” signs) to sit out there.

    This is what unions spend money on. Ridiculous.

  13. I am a social liberal, and am supportive of labor unions when they actually do make a difference. I however disagree with Hyatt’s use of subcontractors, but do know, based on my experience and knowledge of UniteHere and other top-down union efforts around card check (my company just settled with another group who was giving us issues about the same thing–basically ‘neutrality’). UH is looking for Hyatt to buckle and settle first and foremost, and employees second. I agree with comments that if you don’t like your job, then find another place to work. In this industry, jobs are plenty for those who do quality work. As long as Hyatt pays min wage and provides a clean, safe work environment (as clean as housekeeping can be) then it is up to the employee’s choice. I used to manage housekeeping for Hyatt 10 years ago, and unless the culture has flipped (which I doubt) 180 degrees, it’s still the crappy, hard job it was back then.

  14. Wow, I followed this thread thinking I might get a hint about the weak points promos that Hyatt has run for the past two years. I’m not likely to be swayed in my thinking about unions by following a thread on a travel blog. Give me some info on a hotel points promo and you’ll have my attention.

  15. Just another way for unions to try and strong arm members to pay them. The union leadership aren’t interested in workers rights as much as power, control and money they can extort from the members. They are all about card check and seeing how a member votes on union issues but are totally against photo ID requirements for government elections.
    Next step they will hire a bunch of people at minimum wage with no benefits and no union to sit in lawn chairs in front of your local Hyatt in “Protest”.

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