From: Rob Wohl, SumOfUs.org
To: Terry Travers
When Elvia Bahena arrived to testify before the Indianapolis City Council on July 10, she was scared.
She had come to testify about abuses she had experience in her 11 years working as a housekeeper in the hotel industry. Dozens of hotel managers were in attendance, including Brian Comes, the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency, where Elvia worked. She was nervous, but she wanted to show her children that speaking truth to power is the right thing to do. She got up and testified in favor of a new law that would improve conditions in the hotel industry. Two weeks later she was fired.
This isn't the first time SumOfUs.org members have spoken out against unfair firings by the Hyatt. Nearly 100,000 of us have rallied behind the Reyes sisters who were fired from a Santa Clara Hyatt after one sister complained about sexism in the workplace. It's clear that the Hyatt will continue to trample over the rights of workers unless consumers like us come together and hold them accountable.
At first, Hyatt and its subcontractor United Services claimed that Elvia was dismissed because of "disciplinary issues," but in her 6 months at Hyatt she never received a write-up or even a warning. Now United Services is claiming she hasn't been fired-—she simply hasn't been given any new assignments. If Hyatt wants to claim it isn't trying to intimidate its workers, it needs to back it up with action and bring Elvia back to work.
Around the country, Hyatt housekeepers suffer low wages, crushing workloads, and serious injuries at work. And the Hyatt continues to exploit subcontracted workers like Elvia. Now Hyatt workers have called for a global boycott of Hyatt hotels in protest. Feminist organizations, LGBT advocacy groups, religious groups, and labor unions have joined in. But if Hyatt can intimidate workers by firing those who speak out, it will have a chilling effect on any protest, and that's just a violation of human rights.
Rob, Emma, Kaytee, and the team at SumOfUs.org
Why was Elvia testifying before the City Council?
Hotel and subcontractors in Indianapolis have agreements that prevent subcontracted workers like Elvia from being employed directly by hotels, trapping many housekeepers in poverty-wage jobs for years without access to benefits like health care and sick leave. Elvia was testifying to the Indianapolis City Council in favor of the "Freedom to Work" ordinance which would have removed the barriers that low-wage hotel workers face in obtaining employment. The bill passed the Council but was vetoed by the Mayor.
Why have workers called for a global boycott of the Hyatt?
The fact that Hyatt workers have been fired after speaking out is just the tip of the iceberg. Hyatt's aggressive use of subcontracted and temporary workers to replace long-term housekeepers has driven down wages. The workloads the chain has imposed on its housekeepers are clearly unsafe—a study of housekeeper injuries at 50 hotels showed that the Hyatt had the highest rates of injury among the 5 chains studied. The federal government has warned the Hyatt about conditions. Meanwhile Hyatt has lobbied against state and local legislation that would improve protections for its workers. Unite Here, a union that represents thousands of hotel employees, has named Hyatt the worst hotel employer in America.
Global Boycott Heats Up. In These Times, July 30 2012
Subcontracted Hyatt Worker Fired after Testifying about Subcontracting Abuses. HyattHurts.org, July 26 2012