UNITE-HERE’s Latest Co-Belligerents in Hyatt Campaign

By Glenn Spencer  (2/28/2013)
 
Demonstrating that union organizing is a team sport, three Hispanic-related groups announced on February 26 that they were joining a union-led boycott of Hyatt hotels.  The boycott is just one of the many tactics being deployed by the UNITE-HERE union as it tries to recruit new dues payers at various Hyatt properties around the country.  One other tactic UNITE-HERE has utilized is filing frivolous workplace safety complaints with government agencies, and it is this that has given the three groups their cover to join the union’s campaign. 
 
Back in 2010, UNITE-HERE filed charges with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), claiming that Hyatt hotels in eight states were violating OSHA’s General Duty clause with regard to ergonomics.  The union publicly demanded that OSHA launch an investigation and the agency — no surprise — dutifully did so.  However, after a lengthy analysis of numerous Hyatt properties, which included videotaping workers as they went about their day, interviews with employees, and review of thousands of medical records, not a single violation was found.  In fact, OSHA’s letter to Hyatt at the conclusion of the investigation stated:  “a general duty clause citation for ergonomic hazards will not be issued as a result of these inspections.”
 
Although it couldn’t find any violations, OSHA still delivered a gift to UNITE-HERE in the form of a list of “suggestions” for changes to Hyatt’s housekeeping procedures — thus allowing the union to continue claiming that the company was failing to protect workers’ health.  OSHA’s recommendations included things like providing housekeepers with motorized carts, minimizing the travel distance between guest rooms, and modifying bed-making procedures.
 
The three groups joining the boycott, the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, cite OSHA’s recommendations as the primary reason for doing so, but this appears to be merely a pretext.  In fact, there are two other conditions the groups are insisting Hyatt comply with.  These include agreeing to UNITE-HERE’s request to “remain neutral when non-union workers try to organize,” always a key union demand in any campaign, and settling “expired collective bargaining agreements” — in other words give in to UNITE-HERE’s contract demands at unionized Hyatt properties.
 
UNITE-HERE, of course, hopes that their new co-belligerents will enhance the union’s credibility.  But it should come as no surprise that the three aforementioned groups have all received thousands of dollars in union contributions.  And recruitment of outside entities to bolster an organizing campaign is a well-established union tactic.  Hopefully these points won’t be lost on OSHA when it is next asked to intervene in UNITE-HERE’s quest for new dues payers.