On Monday evening, the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE and the hotel chain Hyatt announced that they had come to a tentative agreement after a four-year battle. The agreement would give workers pay and benefits increases retroactive to 2009 and going forward to mid-2018, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In total, about 5,000 workers would get a 4 percent annual raise in pay and benefits. The agreement would impact workers in Chicago, where Hyatt is based, as well as San Francisco, Honolulu, and Los Angeles. It will go into effect after union contracts are ratified by workers in those cities, according to the union’s statement.
If the deal goes into effect, it will end a dispute in which the union led dozens of protests, including a number of one-day and multi-day strikes in major cities, as well as a global boycott against the hotel chain, to protest low pay and poor working conditions.
The most recent protest came as workers showed up at the company’s shareholder meeting on June 10. The protest included a call for a worker to be named to the company’s board in the spot recently vacated by Penny Pritzker, who was tapped by President Obama to be Commerce Secretary. Hotel worker Cathy Youngblood had campaigned to take her place.
The union had led the Hyatt Hurts campaign to bring attention to what they claimed are unfair labor practices. The workers and union claimed that full-time staff were fired and replaced by temp workers who make minimum wage, that workers are forced to rush by cleaning up to 30 rooms in an eight-hour shift, and that the hotel tried to fire a dishwasher who refused to go back to work three days after her C-section. Two housekeepers have also claimed that they were fired after protesting images posted in the break room that Photoshopped their faces on bikini-clad women. Hyatt had disputed these claims. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent the hotel a letter in 2012 warning that workers could face “ergonomic risk factors” and urged adopting different equipment.
The conditions and low pay that Hyatt workers say they faced are widespread in the industry. Workers in the leisure and hospitality sector make an average of about $13 an hour. They also tend to experience more injuries and illnesses on the job. But jobs in this industry have grown steadily in the recovery period and added 43,000 last month, about a quarter of the month’s total job growth.