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Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf Withdraws Appeal of Housekeeper Injury Citations, Agrees to Landmark Settlement

Unprecedented agreement in hotel industry requires hotel to conduct “job hazard analysis,” implement safety reforms, and establish Housekeeping Committee

January 14, 2013

Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel withdrew its appeal to the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board of citations related to housekeeper injuries and agreed to a settlement that is unprecedented in the hotel industry. The settlement commits Hyatt to take specific steps, including the establishment of a Housekeeping Committee, to prevent exposure to unsafe conditions that cause housekeeper injuries.

“This settlement is a big victory for Hyatt housekeepers,” said Nenita Ibe, who has worked at Hyatt Regency Santa Clara for 10 years. “Hyatt is being forced to pay attention to the injuries housekeepers get at work. I’ve seen so many of my co-workers in pain. Now, Hyatt will have to listen to what housekeepers have to say. Hopefully, Hyatt will make the required changes so housekeepers won’t get hurt on-the-job.”

In November 2011, Cal-OSHA cited the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf alleging violations of the state’s repetitive motion injury rule. As part of the government’s in-depth investigation, several housekeepers were interviewed and physically demanding tasks such as bedmaking, bathroom cleaning and pushing heavy carts were observed.

As a result of the settlement, the citation was amended to state that “at and prior to the time of the CalOSHA inspection, Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf did not establish, implement and maintain certain elements of an effective Injury Illness Prevention Program with respect to housekeeper job tasks.” An effective injury prevention program is required under California law, Title 8 CCR 3203(a).

As part of the settlement, Hyatt must:

  • Conduct a “job hazard analysis” using ergonomic principles to evaluate housekeeper tasks for unsafe or unhealthy exposures related to musculoskeletal disorders;
  • Establish a “Housekeeping Committee” to discuss and make recommendations related to housekeeper safety; The Committee will include at least 8 employees, half of whom must be non-management housekeepers chosen by their co-workers;
  • Provide housekeeper safety training programs on injury reporting and correct use of ergonomic interventions;
  • Ensure availability of bed-tucking and long-handled tools and modify current housekeeping carts;
  • Explore the feasibility of reducing the difficulty and number of bed-making tucks, and present findings to the government.

Bedmaking tucks are associated with increased mattress lifts, awkward postures and finger and wrists sprains.

Hyatt is required to pay reduced fines of $6,460.

Housekeepers at the hotel joined other Hyatt housekeepers in November 2010 in eight US cities in filing complaints with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agencies about repetitive motion and other workplace injuries. For the past two years, housekeepers tried to get management at the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf hotel to address their health and safety concerns.

“This is a groundbreaking settlement if effectively put into place by Hyatt,” said Pamela Vossenas, UNITE HERE health and safety expert. “Not only does it make clear the need for monitoring ergonomic hazards of housekeeping tasks but it also specifies tools and work practices to reduce housekeeper injuries and secures a voice on the job for housekeepers’ health and safety.”

In May 2012, federal OSHA issued a corporate-level letter to the Hyatt Corporation identifying ergonomic risks that housekeepers face on the job. The first such letter for the hotel industry, it recommends simple steps for the Hyatt Corporation to take such as providing fitted sheets, mops and long handled tools to reduce ergonomic strain. In 2011, the hotel industry lobbied against state legislation that would make housekeeping work safer by requiring fitted sheets and long handled tools such as mops or similar devices.

UNITE HERE! Local 2, represents 12,000 hospitality and food service workers in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

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Hey #ONA12! What Time is the Session on Copy and Paste?

The President of the Online News Association recently released a letter and FAQ to attendees of the ONA 2012 Conference regarding ONA’s decision to violate the worker-called boycott at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco. ONA’s stated values include editorial integrity, editorial independence, and journalistic excellence: “Online journalists should maintain the highest principles of fairness, accuracy, objectivity and responsible independent reporting.” ONA’s letter and FAQ do not live up to these standards.

Indeed, we suspect that ONA’s message to its own members and attendees was largely copied word for word from communications prepared for it by the Hyatt Corporation. How else would ONA have hit upon the exact same phrasing as other organizations that are violating the Hyatt boycott? (See below for side by side comparisons.)

George Orwell famously said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” When did ONA get out of the business of advancing journalism and into the business of doing PR for a multi-national corporation?

Here’s ONA on the question of honoring the boycott:

Will ONA participate in a boycott?

After looking into the matter closely, ONA has determined that participating in a boycott and pulling out of our year-long contract is not an appropriate or viable course of action. Pulling out of a binding contract would have resulted in a six-figure cost — a non-starter for a nonprofit organization such as ours, which relies on the registration and sponsorships that come from our annual conference to provide member benefits and serve our journalism community. While ONA is supportive of the ongoing negotiations process and has communicated with and urged both parties to resolve their issues in a timely manner that is fair to all, it is committed to holding its meeting as planned.

Now here’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in its own “FAQ” about its own conference at a boycotted Hyatt hotel:

Will SCBWI participate in a boycott?

No, not at this time. After looking into the matter closely, SCBWI has determined that participating in a boycott of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel is not an appropriate or viable course of action. While SCBWI is supportive of the ongoing negotiations process and has communicated with and urged both parties to resolve their issues, it remains committed to hold its conference at the Hyatt Century Plaza from August 3-6th.

Sound familiar? And here’s the National Association of County & City Health Officials in its “FAQ” about its conference at a boycotted Hyatt hotel:

Will NACCHO participate in a boycott?

No, not at this time. After looking into the matter closely, NACCHO has determined that participating in a boycott of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel is not an appropriate or viable course of action. While NACCHO is supportive of the ongoing negotiations process and has communicated with and urged both parties to resolve their issues in a timely manner that is fair to all, it is committed to holding its meeting July 11-13, 2012 as planned.

Seems kind of odd that everyone is “looking into the matter closely” and determining the exact same thing with the exact same wording, doesn’t it? Read more.

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Federal Agency says two San Francisco Hyatt Hotels violated law in implementing E-Verify

Government seeks order requiring Hyatt to withdraw from immigration enforcement program

A federal agency charged with enforcing labor law has issued a complaint against the Grand Hyatt Union Square and Hyatt Regency Embarcadero Hotels in San Francisco alleging that Hyatt violated the law when it implemented the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program earlier this year.

Hyatt workers voiced concerns in April 2012 when the two Hyatt hotels posted notices of Hyatt’s enrollment in the E-Verify program. Under the law, the hotels are required to negotiate changes to terms of employment – including implementation of E-Verify – with the workers’ union.

In the complaint, the Acting General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board seeks an order requiring the two Hyatt Hotels “to provide written notice to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to terminate their enrollment in the E-Verify program.” A hearing date has been set for October 31, 2012.

E-Verify is a program run by the DHS by which employers electronically check the Social Security numbers of newly- hired employees. Participation in E-Verify is optional.

Francisco Ugarte, an immigration attorney with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network, says of the program, “E-Verify is riddled with errors, and there’s no oversight to make sure that the program isn’t used for nefarious reasons. It’s obvious that employers use immigration enforcement as a tool to keep workers down.”

Hyatt’s decision to use E-Verify is one of several practices that negatively impact its largely immigrant workforce. Hyatt’s aggressive use of subcontracting allows it to pay housekeepers poverty wages while evading legal liability for unsafe working conditions. Subcontracting frequently leads to the exploitation of undocumented immigrants who can more easily be abused by employers who do not bear the legal responsibility for their employment. Hyatt housekeepers, who are almost all immigrant women of color, have heavy workloads that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt has even fired immigrant women shortly after they have spoken out about abuse and indignities at work.

Numerous immigrant rights organizations have joined the Global Boycott of Hyatt Hotels, including Center for Community Change, Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Asian Law Caucus, and the Immigrant Rights Commission of the City and County of San Francisco.

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An open letter to #ONA12 Attendees

August 30, 2012

Next month, when the Online News Association holds its annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco, you will be asked to cross a union picket line erected by the people who work in the hotel – the housekeepers, bartenders, cooks, desk clerks and the others who make the hotel run. Hyatt workers have been joined by the AFL-CIO, the National Organization of Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the NFL Players Association, Netroots Nation, and thousands of other organizations and individuals in calling for a Global Boycott of Hyatt Hotels. The Hyatt Regency San Francisco had been under a worker-called boycott since June 2010, and the organizers of the ONA conference have been aware of the boycott since early this year.

Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst hotel employer in America. Hyatt has abused housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those who remain. Housekeepers, who are almost all immigrant women of color, are particularly impacted by Hyatt’s mistreatment.

The Online News Association is asking you to interact with Hyatt as consumers and to look away when the workers ask you to examine the reality of their situation. As journalists and working people yourselves, we appeal to you to take a closer look.

This boycott is about workers like Martha Reyes, a housekeeper who was fired after objecting to demeaning, fake photos of housekeepers in bikinis that were posted in a Hyatt break room. Workers like , a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Boston for over 25 years who was fired, along with 97 other long-time Hyatt employees, and replaced by temporary workers earning minimum wage with no benefits. Workers like Nila Arago, a linen attendant at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco for 32 years who can no longer walk without pain.

The leadership of the Online News Association has looked away from these women and the thousands of other Hyatt workers who are organizing for justice. In so doing, ONA has put you in the position of having to choose whether to cross a picket line or attend their conference. But it is not too late. We urge you to call ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell at 646-290-7900or email her at [email protected] and demand that ONA move this conference to a non-boycotted, neutral location.

To join the thousands who have pledged to honor the global boycott of Hyatt, sign the pledge here.

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