FAQ: Labor/Management Dispute Between Hyatt and Unite Here

The Online News Association will host its annual conference Sept. 20-22, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. Staff and attendees have received calls from a volunteer at a labor organization regarding a labor management dispute between the Hyatt Corporation and Unite Here.

This FAQ provides information for any members or ONA12 attendees with questions.

What is the nature of the dispute between the Hyatt Corporation and Unite Here?
Unite Here and the Hyatt Corporation have been in negotiations for two years over a range of issues. While tentative agreements have been made regarding wages and benefits (the same as those in other hotels in San Francisco in which Unite Here has members; benefits are 100% employer paid), policies regarding union-membership voting rules and broader Hyatt chain worker safety history remain unresolved. (More details can be found at The Hyatt Corporation website and the Unite Here website and hotelworkersrising.org.)

The workers at the Hyatt Regency are not on strike. But because of unresolved labor issues, Unite Here has waged a campaign to urge travelers and meeting planners to boycott Hyatt Hotels. ONA is not alone in being contacted. Other major membership associations have been and are being contacted by Unite Here. Other hotels being targeted for boycotts are in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu.

Did ONA know about the dispute?
We were not made aware of the dispute by Unite Here or the hotel until 2012, a year after we signed our contract with the Hyatt Regency.

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.

What is the Hyatt Regency’s role in the negotiations?
The Hyatt, in response to UniteHere complaints related to its collective bargaining and organizing agenda, have had the injury records and substantive working conditions of 11 hotels thoroughly reviewed by Federal OSHA, California OSHA and two other State Plans. As a result of Unite Here complaints and substantial review by OSHA, CalOSHA and other State plans, no ergonomic issues or other serious working conditions affecting housekeepers or Hyatt’s other associates have been cited and no corrective actions have been required. These investigations have involved looking at thousands of records and at least three ergonomics experts and more than a dozen compliance officers following and videotaping countless housekeepers and other Hyatt associates doing their jobs. After all of this review by Federal and State agencies, Hyatt has not received any material serious citations as relates to the specific complaints made by Unite Here to Federal and State OSHA, including any ergonomic issues.

Are the hotels workers at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco on strike?
No. The workers at this Hyatt hotel are not on strike, nor are health and safety issues on the negotiating table in the dispute between Unite Here and Hyatt.

As far as we can know, the Hyatt Regency workers are not expected to strike, so ONA12 attendees will not be crossing a picket line, although there may be demonstrations. (Demonstrations did ramp up in July, when a group of unions supported a global boycott of the Hyatt hotel chain.) If that changes, we will alert attendees and offer conference refunds by Sept. 12 to anyone who feels uncomfortable with the situation.

What if I am contacted by Unite Here about the boycott?
If you are contacted by Unite Here representatives urging you to support a hotel boycott, please feel free to refer UniteHere representatives to ONA. If you feel you have been contacted inappropriately, please let us know at the same email address.

Are there other resources available to learn about the dispute?
Yes. You can also visit the following sites for additional information regarding the dispute and we will update links here if more information becomes available:
The Hyatt Corporation website at hyattworkplace.com
The Unite Here website at unitehere11.org and hotelworkersrising.org.