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Labor Takes on the Money Power of Hotel Chains Across 15 Cities

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Filed: Country: Philippines
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Organized labor is planning coordinated national actions involving thousands of members and community allies to fight for better working contracts.

By Carl Finamore

Contracts expire in 2010 for 45,000 hotel workers in ten cities and, on July 22, several thousand supporters demonstrated across the US and Canada. This time Hyatt Hotels were targeted because "Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds," according to the union UNITE-HERE, AFL-CIO.

Simultaneous protests occurred in Chicago, Honolulu, San Francisco, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Rosemont, San Antonio, Santa Clara and San Diego, with nearly 1,000 activists arrested after engaging in peaceful civil disobedience blocking hotel entrances.

Apparently, there will be more to come of these coordinated national actions involving thousands of members and community allies. They are designed to keep pace with the expiration of contracts in a growing number of cities as it becomes clear hotel owners are stalling negotiations everywhere.

This will allow more hotel union locals to link up with close to 23,000 workers in San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles whose contracts lapsed almost one year ago.

The union gave a full explanation for this important escalation of tactics and strategy: "Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. [Yet], hotels are still squeezing workers and cutting staff. More than 115,000 jobs in the hotel industry have been cut since the recession began in 2008 - 46,000 of which have come just in the first quarter of 2010 as the industry has projected recovery. While this marks a trend involving several major hotel companies, Hyatt is the starkest example."

How to Make Money

"I made my money the old fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before he died," was famously said by the colorful Malcolm Forbes after he inherited from his father the equally famous magazine carrying the family name.

But don't expect owners of the Hyatt Hotels, the Chicago-based Pritzker family, where inherited wealth has been passed along over four generations, to be as brutally honest as the late Mr. Forbes. They consistently rank among the top ten richest American families, but they may very well be justified claiming their money was made in another equally reliable old-fashioned way - by selling high and paying low.

This is certainly the mantra of one of their largest family assets, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. It boasts a portfolio of 434 properties in 45 countries and, with $1.3 billion, had the most cash on hand of all it competitors at the end of 2009. The Pritzkers have always been good, very good, at making money.

They are definitely practiced at selling high. A minority stake in the Hyatt sold in November 2009 and earned the family just under one billion dollars. And they, indeed, know how to pay low. Only several months earlier, minimum-wage replacements were hired to replace the entire housekeeping staff at their three Boston hotels.

"I gave my body - everything I have - to that hotel and Hyatt disposed of us like we were trash," said Lucine Williams, who worked at the Hyatt Regency Boston for 21 years, before being abruptly fired and summarily replaced on August 31, 2009. UNITE-HERE reports that Lucine's hotel made a profit of almost $5 million that year.

In fact, Hyatt management continually cuts staff and increases workloads at all their hotels. As a result, the chain had the highest injury rate for housekeepers last year in an academic study of 50 major hotels published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in February 2010.

Actually, since the late 1980s, the hotel industry as a whole has steadily reduced employees. The union reports that in 1988, nearly 71 workers were employed to service 100 occupied guest rooms. Last year, that number was down to 53 - a 25 percent reduction.

This is why the industry is poised to make big profits. Occupancy rates are increasing while the workforce is not. "Expense reductions have been so dramatic at both the property and corporate level that even a modest pick-up in ... growth should lead to outsized profit gains." (Goldman Sachs, 8/9/2009)

How to Win Decent Contracts

The union is sending a clear message: stall negotiations and there will be increased national coordination of demonstrations, civil disobedience actions and boycotts. This is in addition to the strike weapon, which San Francisco Local 2, whose contracts expired in August 2009, has used both judiciously and effectively.

That local, with 9,000 members, has a long history of mobilizing both its members and community allies. It has already successfully employed several three-day strikes of targeted hotels, numerous lobby protests by workers on lunch breaks and frequent "all-day, all-night picketing" of eight boycotted venues.

Yet, at the same time, the union is conscious that victory is more difficult fighting alone in one city, no matter how bold or militant. Members are also very clear about this from their experiences dealing with these giant investment conglomerates, which have continuously rebuffed local efforts to achieve a decent contract.

"These are multi-national corporations, so, standing together with workers in other cities is key to defending our livelihoods," said Local 2 Press Coordinator, Riddhi Mehta.

Thus, the stage is set for more national clashes between the hotels and labor, in the most old-fashioned of ways, with each mobilizing its own precious resources, one measured in cash, the other in people. Only this time, hotel workers have turned their adversaries' chief weapon against them - more management stalling of negotiations locally means more union allies coming on board nationally.

Carl Finamore is former President (ret), Air Transport Employees, Local Lodge 1781, IAMAW. He attended the AFL-CIO convention with press credentials from his union. He can be reached in San Francisco at local1781@yahoo.com

http://www.alternet....cities_/?page=2

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Does labor in this country ever think that low wages here have something to do with so many illegal aliens being used in the industry...

Furthermore, do you think the reason their equivalents in countries like Australia being paid, between $20 to $30, has something to do with their tight supply and demand. What conditions might lead towards a tight labor markets, skewing supply in the workers favor? As it has actually done so in AUS.

Edited by Heracles

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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What conditions results in the opposite and actually skews supply and demand against the worker's favor?

An employers goal is to minimize cost and hire the best people. Therefore, what would they pay when 100 people applied for one job in two weeks? Probably minimum wage. Now what would they have to pay if only 2 people applied in three months?

When American unions speaks I just laugh as they have destroyed the US and are little like those in AUS. Unions there don't get to hire or fire or tell a company what to do and when to do it. The simply seek safe working conditions and fair pay. Furthermore, every single union there is ironically against illegal aliens, often behind raids of businesses with their ICE equivalent. Which says something considering Australia's illegal alien problem is laughable at best, in comparison to the epidemic over here.

Edited by Heracles

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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Filed: Country: Philippines
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Does labor in this country ever think that low wages here have something to do with so many illegal aliens being used in the industry...

Furthermore, do you think the reason their equivalents in countries like Australia being paid, between $20 to $30, has something to do with their tight supply and demand. What conditions might lead towards a tight labor markets, skewing supply in the workers favor? As it has actually done so in AUS.

:rolleyes: Hotel business and profits are up - way up. They're squeezing their employees because without unions, that's what corporations do to their employees.

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:rolleyes: Hotel business and profits are up - way up. They're squeezing their employees because without unions, that's what corporations do to their employees.

Granted, but this is a free-market economy and you still fail to answer what illegal aliens or even a flood of immigrants does to wages.

You also deliberately ignore that fact that countries with 20 fold higher wages for blue-collar or unskilled workers, also have a non-existent illegal alien issue. If my relatives had to initially compete with millions of people working under the table or for $10 an hour, aka 2010 USA, they wouldn't be as wealthy as they now are. They'd have ended up poor like their yank equivalents. You also fail to grasp this is not the 20's or 30's, where you can just hop of a ship and work.

PS What are your mates in office doing regarding minimum wage?


According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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Granted, but this is a free-market economy and you still fail to answer what illegal aliens or even a flood of immigrants does to wages.

You also deliberately ignore that fact that countries with 20 fold higher wages for blue-collar or unskilled workers, also have a non-existent illegal alien issue. If my relatives had to initially compete with millions of people working under the table or for $10 an hour, aka 2010 USA, they wouldn't be as wealthy as they now are. They'd have ended up poor like their yank equivalents. You also fail to grasp this is not the 20's or 30's, where you can just hop of a ship and work.

PS What are your mates in office doing regarding minimum wage?

BY, I'm not going to get into another round-n-round with you over the economic impact immigrants (documented or undocumented) have on our economy, but the facts are there for you to see. Population growth helps economies grow - that is well established. As for causing depressed wages - I would agree in that sense, but not as a direct consequence of immigrants, but from a weakening of unions. If unions in this country had the strength they once had 40 years ago, then wages would not be depressed. That is the biggest factor in to why the ratio of pay between the highest paid employee and the average pay has gone from 30 to 1 to over 500 to 1, and why we have a shrinking Middle Class. People like to dog unions and come up with examples of problems with unions, but the same types of abuse can be exampled with corporations. Workers need to be able to negotiate their wages through collective bargaining. I don't see any other way to increase wages short of government policies and regulations (and I don't think that's the best answer).

Edited by El Buscador

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BY, I'm not going to get into another round-n-round with you over the economic impact immigrants (documented or undocumented) have on our economy, but the facts are there for you to see.

Actually what you do is refuse to answer direct questions pertaining to your opinion and its logic. Furthermore, use a handful of articles to replace reality. If your articles [or opinion] regarding illegals and limitless immigration was correct, then surely at least one first world country would have implemented open border policies; that is, rather than actually doing the total opposite.

Population growth helps economies grow - that is well established.

I see, so naturally the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Mexico are wealthy countries then. Perhaps their wealthy citizens leave their shacks [in droves] and beg to migrate to countries with vastly lower populations because they just want something different.

As for causing depressed wages - I would agree in that sense, but not as a direct consequence of immigrants, but from a weakening of unions. If unions in this country had the strength they once had 40 years ago, then wages would not be depressed. That is the biggest factor in to why the ratio of pay between the highest paid employee and the average pay has gone from 30 to 1 to over 500 to 1, and why we have a shrinking Middle Class..

The American unions asked too much, became greedy and ultimately crime ridden. Yes there is a place for a union but not for the practices by unions here. Unions for starters, need to start with education their member and their families on why they should by American. This also includes using media campaigns promoting the same and educating the rest of America.

I agree with you on pay and it's a joke that companies can easily move jobs overseas, without even providing a reasonable severance package. That said, you refuse to accept supply and demand and its relevance towards the high quality of life in countries like Australia.

Edited by Heracles

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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Your point about India and Bangladesh wrt pop growth is well taken, Heracles. However, I hope you also accept that declining populations are generally not the best incubators for economic growth.

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Your point about India and Bangladesh wrt pop growth is well taken, Heracles. However, I hope you also accept that declining populations are generally not the best incubators for economic growth.

You are right there. Sustainable population growth is a positive [growth driver] for countries like Australia and Canada. However, send 100 million people to each country and their Q.O.L, wages and living standard will drop to US standards overnight. And yes, before you go there, this still applies regardless of the immigrants race. :lol:

When it comes to unskilled and blue-collar workers, the US is full house and has a massive oversupply. Surely the US doesn't need any more cleaners. However, there is still room for highly skilled professionals [doctors/scientist/engineers]. Australia on the other hand has a massive shortage of skilled people to do any sort of manual labor.

Basing immigration policy on slogans like country of immigrants is about as logical, negligent and dangerous as republicans assuming tax cuts fix every issue. Not only does it not but depending on the problem, can actually worsen the situation. Hello California..

Edited by Heracles

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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Filed: IR-1/CR-1 Visa Country: China
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cool ! 1000 activists arrested !! yay !


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You are right there. Sustainable population growth is a positive [growth driver] for countries like Australia and Canada. However, send 100 million people to each country and their Q.O.L, wages and living standard will drop to US standards overnight. And yes, before you go there, this still applies regardless of the immigrants race. :lol:

When it comes to unskilled and blue-collar workers, the US is full house and has a massive oversupply. Surely the US doesn't need any more cleaners. However, there is still room for highly skilled professionals [doctors/scientist/engineers]. Australia on the other hand has a massive shortage of skilled people to do any sort of manual labor.

Basing immigration policy on slogans like country of immigrants is about as logical, negligent and dangerous as republicans assuming tax cuts fix every issue. Not only does it not but depending on the problem, can actually worsen the situation. Hello California..

Declining birthrates are a consequence of developing nations. Even in Mexico, birthrates are declining, especially among the younger generations of women who chooses to postpone childbirth and have less children. Western Europe is having a real problem with declining birthrates and aging populations. Welcoming immigrants is a logical solution for both Western Europe and the U.S.. Our policy makers realize this.

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So Steve, when profits are up wages should go up? :rofl: Under that mentality workers should work for free when there are no profits?


"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."- Ayn Rand

“Your freedom to be you includes my freedom to be free from you.”

― Andrew Wilkow

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So Steve, when profits are up wages should go up? :rofl: Under that mentality workers should work for free when there are no profits?

And everyone who works for a publicly traded company should work for stock options, not base pay.

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