On July 22, 2010, hundreds of unionized hotel workers seeking a new contract and protesting staff cuts and working conditions protested staged a sit-in in front of the Andaz West Hollywood Hyatt Hotel, closing down the famed Sunset Strip. They were joined by a number of community groups, including the Coalition for Economic Survival, and clergy. In an act of peaceful civil disobedience 63 people were arrested.
The organizers had arranged with deputies who would be arrested, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore. "It was very peaceful," he said of the protest.
Similar actions took place at Hyatt Hotels in Chicago, Honolulu, San Francisco, Long Beach, Boston, Rosemont, Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Santa Clara and San Diego.
The protest targeted Hyatt and its billionaire owners, the Pritzker family, one of the wealthiest and most politically influential families in America..
The most prominent member of the Pritzker Family is Penny Pritzker, the former national finance chairwoman of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. She now serves as a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB). Pritzker also runs TransUnion, a major credit-reporting company that has come under fire in recent months selling credit information to employers to screen applicants.
Hyatt reported that as of March 31, 2010 it had over $1.3 billion in cash available. Despite these trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, 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.
In 2010, citywide hotel contracts covering 45,000 unionized hotel workers in ten cities across the U.S. and Canada will expire and be subject to bargaining.
Health care and hours cut during the recession but not restored are the key points of disagreement in the negotiations, said Leigh Shelton, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 11, the hotel union.
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Andaz Hyatt West Hollywood Demonstration
View video footage of the demonstration below.