SEATTLE (Feb. 28, 2014) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has urged public officials to contact the owner of two Hyatt hotels in Seattle and urge him to allow a fair election process for letting hotel employees choose whether to form a union, as outlined in a national agreement between UNITE HERE and the Hyatt Hotels. The WSLC is also urging public officials to honor the union’s boycott of the hotels resulting from the owner’s decision not to adhere to that national agreement.
This week, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler stepped up and wrote Richard Hedreen, owner of the Grand Hyatt Seattle and Hyatt at Olive 8 hotels, indicating he will honor the boycott.
“I agree that workers at your hotels deserve to have access to a fair elections process in order to decide whether they want to join a union,” Kreidler wrote, adding that he will “not patronize, host meetings or encourage national insurance meetings at your hotels until the dispute has been resolved.”
Since August 2013, Seattle Hyatt hotel workers and their supporters at UNITE HERE Local 8 have conducted a boycott of the two hotels in response to the hotels’ difficult working conditions, unaffordable healthcare, and use of subcontracted workers. Employees say Hedreen has refused to agree to the national process backed by Hyatt Hotels for allowing them to choose to unionize. In response, workers are calling on customers to not eat, meet or sleep at the two local hotels until the matter is resolved.
“The boycott may cost workers like me money, but the cost of doing nothing is much greater,” said Yuan Ping Tang, a houseman at the Hyatt at Olive 8 (pictured at here with his translator). Yuan Ping and his co-workers report difficulty in affording Hyatt health insurance, which can cost as much as $400 a month for a family of four. They also say more work is being done by subcontracted workers, who are typically paid less with even fewer benefits.
Here is the text of Kreidler’s letter:
Dear Mr. Hedreen:
It is my understanding that last year, an agreement was reached between the UNITE HERE International Union and the Hyatt Corporation, which spelled out a fair election process under which workers at local Hyatt hotels could choose to join a union.
However, I recently learned that you, as owner of the two Hyatt hotels in Seattle, have chosen not to sign on to the agreement, and your actions have led to the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt at Olive 8 being placed on the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council’s “Unfair/Do Not Patronize” list.
Throughout my long career in public service, I have been a strong and consistent supporter of workers’ rights and unions. I have refused to cross picket lines or patronize hotels during labor disputes. I agree that workers at your hotels deserve to have access to a fair election process in order to decide whether they want a union, and I support and will honor the resolution passed by the Washington State Labor Council’s Executive Board and not patronize, host meetings or encourage national insurance meetings at your hotels until this dispute has been resolved.
PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:
Attorneys honor Hyatt boycott rather than attend Bar awards (Oct. 4, 2013)
Hyatt workers urge boycott of Seattle hotels (Aug. 28, 2013)
UNITE HERE, Hyatt Hotels reach national agreement (July 1, 2013)