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UNITEHERE! Reaches Tentative Deals with Hilton Hotels

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Image: James Parks

After many months of bargaining, UNITEHERE! and Hilton Worldwide have reached tentative agreements at hotels in three major markets—Chicago, San Francisco and Honolulu. The tentative agreements cover nearly 4,000 workers.

While terms of the settlements vary in each city, the contracts include wage increases, improved job stability language and reduced workloads for housekeeping staff and others. Significantly, the new contracts also preserve low-cost, high-quality health care and pension benefits for Hilton workers and their families at a time when, nationwide, these employee benefits are being cut.

UNITEHERE! President John Wilhelm said in a statement:

We are pleased to have achieved a fair settlement for all sides—one that allows workers to move forward and share in the robust recovery that the hotel industry is experiencing.

The contracts for Hilton workers expired in Chicago and San Francisco in August 2009 and in Hawaii in June 2010. Bargaining continues for contracts at other hotel chains, affecting thousands more workers in those three cities and several other cities across North America.

Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8 percent annually from 2010 through 2014.

This blog originally appeared in blog.aflcio.org on March 7, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: James Parks first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and has worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

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Hyatt Continues Catching Flack over Fired Boston Workers

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Hyatt’s efforts to woo fired housekeepers has been mostly unsuccessful, with only six taking up the hotelier’s offer of employment with the company that replaced them.

Hyatt says the new jobs will extend their pay through 2010 and healthcare through May 2010. But workers aren’t buying the company’s efforts to assuage the public relations disaster they set off when they fired the 98 housekeepers in August. Luz Aquino, who worked at the Hyatt Harborside told Reuters: “Hyatt, I think, is playing games because they think we’re stupid.”

Protesters rally outside Bostons Hyatt Regency hotel in October. Photo by Elizabeth Washburn

A Boston news station reported yesterday that a worker said the hotel had not kept its promise to continue health coverage through March after her son was denied care during a hospital visit. Hyatt said this was just a clerical error and the problem was fixed. But the report also said Emerson College yanked its holiday party from the Hyatt to protest the company’s treatment of workers.

We documented here how the firing has sent ripples within the state and across the nation. On November 12, UNITE HERE kicked off a series of North American solidarity demonstrations in Toronto that was attended by hundreds in an effort to bring attention to the workers’ plight.

Hyatt’s explanation for the firings was that it needed to remain profitable in a down economy. But that’s a hard argument to swallow when Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced it raised $127.3 million at the closing of its initial public offering last week.

Some Money Reversing Flow to U.S. from Mexico

As we reported on ITT Working, the down economy hasn’t sent workers back to Mexico en masse despite the special challenges it poses to migrant workers. Predictably, hard times have led to unemployment for some and the inability to send money home, but anecdotal evidence shows that some money is even reversing course. The New York Times yesterday reported some families are scraping together funds to send to their unemployed relatives in the U.S.

This post originally appeared in Working In These Times on November 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.

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