Hospitality Workers Rally and March on Hyatt

Hospitality Workers Rally and March on Hyatt

Unite Here Rally for Hyatt Workers 2012 Photo By: Casey McKeel
Unite Here Rally for Hyatt Workers 2012 Photo By: Casey McKeel

On Thursday June 21, 2012 hundreds of hospitality workers and their supporters met at McKeldin Square in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Many held red and black signs which read “3/5s NO More!”

They rallied at McKeldin for about forty five minutes. According to the workers, Hyatt housekeepers are making 3/5s of what workers in other cities in the same chain are making. Their jobs are being subcontracted out, they claim.

The rally was organized by local union, Unite Here Local 7. Several other groups joined the rally in solidarity including: United Workers, Interfaith Workers for Justice, Occupy Baltimore, Occupy Our Homes, Community Churches United, The Trayvon Martin Local Organizing Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Union Iron Workers Local 16, All People’s Congress, Bmore Housing for All, and The Party for Socialism and Liberation.

I spoke with a few people at the rally. Thomas Scott, a Unite Here union leader, has worked at Camden Yards for thirteen years.

When asked why he was rallying Mr. Scott said, “To help workers be more united. We need fair wages and to make enough money to maintain a household.”

Jeremy Pollard worked for the Hyatt for thirteen years as a concierge. “I was terminated because of a guest complaint that happened on a shift were I was understaffed. I am glad my coworkers have decided to fight for a fair process, since the Hyatt has shown no regard for us as people.”

Shantrese Wise, member of United Workers and someone with ten years experience in hotel work, said, “I’m supporting and know how it is to make low wages as a housekeeper for $8.50 an hour. I’ve experienced sexual harassment, sexism, and racism on the job. As a housekeeper, supervisors look down on you and many expect you to sleep with them when you work there.”

Shantrese worked her way up from room attendant to room inspector. She was employed by Hilton, Marriot, Red Roof, Holiday Inn, and Hyatt.

“When I started at the Hyatt more than a decade ago, we had 35-40 in-house housekeepers. Today we have only nine. The rest are temps, who make as little as $8/hour and have to clean up to 30 rooms a day,” said Denise Sidbury, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency.

“I work side-by-side with these women every day, and I’m tired of watching Hyatt treat them like second-class citizens,” she added.

After the rally, the workers and supporters marched over to the Hyatt Regency, located at 300 Light street in Baltimore. Hyatt security came on to the parking lot of the hotel but allowed the peaceful protest to go on.

Hotel workers and supporters said several chants including “No Justice! No peace!” Passerbys in vehicles who supported the protesters honked their horns, waved and yelled out their car windows.

Baltimore City police on bicycles also hovered around. No arrests were made.

I called the Hyatt hotel for comment and received a statement from Hyatt Regency General Manager, Gayle Smith-Howard. Part of the statement states:

“Hyatt Regency Baltimore is a great place to work and we are proud of our commitment to our associates. Like virtually all hotels, Hyatt Regency Baltimore use staffing companies to perform certain functions and to supplement our full-time associates 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. Regardless of whether they are Hyatt associates or employees of a staffing company, the satisfaction of those who serve our guests is fundamental to the success of our business.”

However, the workers who marched on June 21st are not satisfied. They are planning to hold another rally on July 26th at McKeldin Square.

Bonnie Lane writes for  Baltimore's newest street paper, Word on the Street. She has an associate of arts degree in public relations/journalism. Lane is a full-time writer, advocate and activist for the homeless and the 99%.