During this holy season of Passover for the Jewish community, and Maundy Thursday for Christians, the Bay Area community sent a powerful message to the Hyatt corporation on Thursday, holding them accountable for stalling on signing a contract with its workers in San Francisco, workplace injuries, and denying its non-union workers a fair process for them to choose a union throughout the Bay Area.
In San Francisco, with the sound of Buddhist bells and the dramatic sight of workers and clergy carrying heavy mattresses in lieu of a cross – symbolizing carrying each other’s burdens – over 100 workers, community leaders, and clergy from different religious traditions walked in silence through downtown San Francisco in support of local hotel workers fighting for a fair contract and affordable health care.
Stopping by the Hilton Union Square – which signed a new contract with its workers last month, clergy offered symbols of milk and honey in gratitude for this settlement which maintains workers’ healthcare and improves wages, pensions and workloads. Rabbis from various congregations also led two delegations to meet with the general manager of the Grand Hyatt and also with workers in the employee cafeteria. Hyatt was offered the symbols of Passover: unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. Rabbis spoke passionately and admonished the Hyatt Hotels to do right by its workers. Another group of clergy went into the employee cafeteria to bless workers and express their solidarity.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, one of the speakers at this faith-rooted action challenged those in attendance to stand against exploitation and discrimination in all its forms, most especially economic inequality. A veteran of the civil rights movement and a United Methodist minister, the Rev. Phil Lawson encouraged workers and community leaders to stand fast to the call for social justice and non-violent social transformation.
In Santa Clara, 60 hotel workers and clergy leaders led a Passover Service in the Streets in front of the Hyatt Santa Clara Hotel to protest workplace injuries and share stories of hope.
In recent years, about half of the housekeepers at the Hyatt Santa Clara, have reported experiencing work-related pain. Of the housekeepers surveyed at the Hyatt Santa Clara in 2008, 69 percent reported back pain; 67 percent reported problems with their wrists, hands, and fingers; and 56 percent experienced trouble with their knees, legs, and feet.
Rev. Rebecca Kuiken, director of the Interfaith Council for Economics and Justice in Santa Clara County:
If you're cleaning too many rooms every day with these 200-pound carts, you have no room for rest. The hotel industry does not have simple tools for cleaning bathrooms. It's the equivalent to farm workers using a short hoe. The workers went through backbreaking labor because the tools were too short.
In addition, over 40 clergy leaders signed onto a letter to urge O’Reilly Media, who was hosting a conference at the hotel today, to honor the worker-called boycott of the Hyatt Santa Clara. In San Francisco, hotel workers and community supporters continue to urge hotel customers to honor the boycotts at all three Hyatts: Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency.
The actions were sponsored by Progressive Jewish Alliance, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Californians, Interfaith Council for Economics and Justice in Santa Clara County and UNITE HERE!