The battle for worker rights at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood has been raging for almost a year now and in many ways has come to symbolize the struggle to bust private unions in the hospitality sector.
First it started with efforts to increase the workloads of the hotel’s housekeeping staff, actions found to be in violation of federal labor laws. Then it moved to strategic cuts and re-classifications of employees, moves that led to a wide-scale boycott of the Hyatt Andaz for their abusive and exploitative treatment of workers.
Now it looks like it might have embroiled an Iron Chef.
The Hyatt Andaz is in contract talks with world-renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto to revive the hotel’s RH restaurant. But Hyatt workers and supporters have asked Morimoto to reconsider a deal with Hyatt given the chain’s history of abusive treatment of its workers.
It’s a difficult issue for Hyatt workers, especially those currently working at the RH. On the one hand, Morimoto would certainly bring a much needed boost to the restaurant and its workers who have been hurting as a result of the stalled labor talks and ongoing boycott.
But on the other hand, as Hyatt hotel server and union activist Jim Lair Beard said, the issue is much larger. “Sure, Morimoto would bring a ton of business to the restaurant, but for us it is worth it to take the hit if it helps other workers. This is about looking out for each other and regaining the middle class.”
Beard’s statement, and the altruism that underlies it is the foundation of the American labor movement and a sentiment corporate America would sooner have us forget. Beard made it clear that the Hyatt Andaz workers are scared. They are worried about job security especially as management makes specific efforts to divide employees against each other–housekeeping versus hospitality–and to keep union representatives at arms reach so they can pressure employees against further organizing. “We want to know why didn’t hotel management reach out to include us in the deal? We want to ask them what do you have to hide? Why would you go behind the backs of the union to do this deal?”
But they are also tired of working for substandard wages in substandard conditions and here, the possible venture with Morimoto presents an opportunity for Hyatt to come back to the bargaining table and work out a deal with employees. It’s in everyone’s interests to do so, even if hotel management doesn’t see it that way right now.
Photo from laverrue via flickr.
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