The American Educational Studies Association is meeting in San Antonio this week and the key issue of its business meeting on Saturday was how the organization should respond to the ongoing union boycott of the site of its 2016 meeting in Seattle.
UNITE HERE / Hyatt Dispute and Settlement
Several years ago AESA entered into a contract with the Grand Hyatt in Seattle for its 2016 meeting. The Hyatt hotel chain has for some time been an organizing target of UNITE HERE, whose 265,000 members work primarily in the hospitality industry.
In July 2013, an agreement was reached between Hyatt and UNITE HERE that ended a years long stalemate between the union and Hyatt as well as ending a national boycott of Hyatt-managed properties.
Doug Patrick, senior VP of human resources for Hyatt said of the agreement:
The national agreement between Hyatt and UNITE HERE is great news for our associates in markets where they haven’t seen wage increases in four years … The associates will see the increases in wage and benefit enhancements they deserve.
UNITE HERE described the key provision of the agreement as establishing “a fair process,” which includes a mechanism for employees at a number of Hyatt hotels to vote on whether they wish to be represented by UNITE HERE.
David Sherwyn, associate professor of law and academic director for The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration has described the deal as good for both sides. He told Hotel News Now (HNN),
What it also shows is the belief of the inadequacy of the NLRB election. UNITE HERE was adamant that they didn’t want to go to an NLRB election where you can do all kinds of mean and nasty stuff.
HNN reported that that Hyatt didn’t want to authorize card-check voting. According to Sherwyn, Hyatt wanted employees to go into booths to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for elections. Card check involves a lot of peer pressure because voting is done in public, which Hyatt was against.
“(UNITE HERE is) giving them an election, and I’m sure that they set some sort of ground rules about what they can and cannot be said and how the election is going to be done and so on,” Sherwyn told HNN. “What I’m inferring is that Hyatt feels good because at the end of the day their employees are getting a vote.”
The rub for AESA’s 2016 meeting in Seattle is that the national agreement applies only to Hyatt-managed hotels and the the owner of the Grand Hyatt Seattle, Richard Hedreen, has refused to allow employees access to that fair process (e.g., card check).
The response from UNITE HERE Local 8 in Seattle has been to ask customers to boycott the Grand Hyatt Seattle (and Hyatt at Olive 8).
UNITE HERE Local 8 says the Boycott of Grand Hyatt Seattle is based on the following issues:
- Heavy workloads. Hotel housekeeping work is difficult work that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt at Olive 8 Houseman Yuan Ping Tang reports that he turns over up to 38 rooms a shift.
- A slippery slope of subcontracting. In the past year, the Hyatt at Olive 8 has used more temporary, subcontracted workers, a precedent that can threaten full-time jobs.
- Workers want their say. Workers at the Grand Hyatt Seattle and the Hyatt at Olive 8 have called on the hotels’ owner, Richard Hedreen, to give them a fair process to decide for themselves whether they want a union. This is a process that Hyatt agrees will be implemented if and when Mr. Hedreen gives the OK. So far Mr. Hedreen has refused.
Discussion at AESA 2015 Business Meeting
At the AESA 2015 business meeting this afternoon in, ironically, San Antonio’s Grand Hyatt, I made the motion that “AESA honor the UNITE HERE Local 8 boycott and not hold its 2016 meeting at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.”
There was a long and vigorous discussion of the issue, with many members stating their support of the motion and others offering supportive sentiments for the Grand Hyatt Seattle workers, but arguing against the boycott because of the financial implications for AESA (which, because of contract provisions, would be on the hook for over $80,000 if they canceled).
After a long debate, the members in attendance voted to refer the boycott motion back to the Executive Council of AESA, thus stopping the discussion among the general membership and by-passing an up-or-down vote on the motion.
Previously, AESA members had participated in a straw poll on honoring the UNITE HERE Local 8 boycott, with the anti-boycott position winning by a slim margin, although fewer than 100 members participated in the poll.
Read more about the boycotts of Grand Hyatt Seattle here:
Attorneys honor Hyatt boycott rather than attend Bar awards | October 4, 2013
Hotel Workers Say: Boycott Hyatt! | August 30, 2013
Seattle Gay News
Update! Hyatt Hotel Owners Respond to Boycott | August 30, 2013
Union activists call for boycott of 2 Seattle Hyatt hotels | August 28, 2013
The Seattle Times
Hyatt workers urge boycott of Seattle hotels | August 28, 2013
Workers Call for Boycott on Two Seattle Hyatts | August 27, 2013