|By Emily Bryson York, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 28, 2011--Unite Here Local 1 said Thursday that hotel workers have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Hyatt Corp. after an incident last week in which heat lamps were used to repel striking housekeepers.
The union maintains 10 heat lamps were turned for more than an hour last Thursday morning, amid record temperatures, during a demonstration to draw attention to Hyatt's treatment of its workers.
"The employer assaulted the employees and tried to fry them by shining heat lamps on them in the middle of what was already a hot, humid day," the workers' complaint alleges.
Earlier this week, a Hyatt spokesman said that the hotel's general manager had accepted responsibility for the incident. He retired from the company Friday, which had been previously planned, the company said.
Hyattt responded that it has filed federal labor practice charges against it union "for unlawful picketing in addition to the existing charges its refusal to negotiate in good faith."
"If Unite Here leaders were serious about completing these negotiations, they would have accepted our highly competitive offers that would provide Hyatt associates with higher hourly wages, Hyatt-paid family health care coverage and enhanced retirement contributions," a spokesman wrote in an email. "Instead, Unite Here continues to prioritize its growth in other markets above the interests of its members in Chicago."
Unite Here represents 170 Park Hyatt employees. Their contract expired Aug. 31, 2009, the union says.
"Many of my coworkers are getting hurt -- hurting their wrists or backs lifting heavy mattresses or slipping on wet floors -- and Hyatt is ignoring our pain," Ofelia Martinez, a housekeeper at the Park Hyatt, said in a statement. "Turning the heat lamps on us is just another example of how Hyatt abuses us."
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