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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 1 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 31
One year into Hyatt boycott: Hotel management snubs delegation of ministers
Section One
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One year into Hyatt boycott: Hotel management snubs delegation of ministers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Almost one year after workers called for a boycott of the two Hyatt Hotel properties in Seattle, hotel management has yet to agree to a fair process to allow their employees to decide whether to form a union.

In fact, Hyatt management is apparently so far from agreement with their workers that managers snubbed a delegation of ministers and other community supporters who visited the Hyatt at Olive 8 July 30.

The delegation included the Rev. Ron Moe-Lobeda, pastor of University Lutheran Church; Rev. Brigitta Remole of Plymouth Church; Rev. Paul Benz of the Faith Action Network; and Rev. Byron Hitchens, who is also a member of UNITE HERE Local 8, the hospitality and food service union many Hyatt workers want to join.

Once inside the Hyatt at Olive 8 lobby, the ministers and about 50 community supporters of Hyatt workers requested to see the manager to express their concerns about the process for allowing employees to choose whether to join a union.

Although the front desk manager promised to summon the higher-ups, management never materialized.

Moe-Lobeda and Hitchens then offered prayers for a fair settlement of the labor dispute.

'We pray for those who are in positions of authority,' Moe-Lobeda said. 'Give them hearts of compassion and minds of reason so that they will hear our requests, respect our right to unionize, and support us in our efforts to make this business a more hospitable place for everyone who enters these doors.'

'We remember the Hyatt Hotel management staff and labor staff. We ask that they treat each other with respect in all issues&' Hitchens added.

As the group left, without ever seeing upper-level hotel management, a hotel staffer approached UNITE HERE organizer Levi Pine and warned, 'We're asking you to leave - and don't ever come back!'

Although Richard Hedreen, owner of the Hyatt at Olive 8 and Grand Hyatt Hotels, has dug in his heels on the issue of allowing his employees to vote on a union, the boycott to force him to do so has continued to gather support.

According to UNITE HERE Local 8, 30 non-profit organizations and 22 elected officials have signed on to the boycott, pledging not to patronize either of Hedreen's Hyatt hotels. Last year the Seattle City Council also sent Hedreen a letter, signed by all nine Council members, urging him to settle the dispute.

Hedreen is also lagging behind the national Hyatt Corporation, which last year agreed on a fair process toward unionization for all its corporately-owned hotels.

UNITE HERE Local 8 represents some 5,000 hospitality and food service workers in the Pacific Northwest. In their 2007 Westin contract, Local 8 won the first explicit protections for Transgender hotel workers in the country. The language protecting both sexual orientation and gender identity is now standard in Local 8's contracts.

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