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Hyatt Wins Round with Union, but Battle to Escalate with Planned Boycott

By Kathy Bergen, Chicago TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 20, 2012 --Hyatt Hotels Corp. this week chalked up a win in its three-year stand-off with the hotel workers' union, but the battle is expected to escalate Monday with a union call for a global boycott.

Richard Killiher-Paz, the acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, found merit in unfair labor practice charges brought by Hyatt in relation to contract talks here. The NLRB office drafted a settlement agreement to resolve the allegations, which two Unite Here locals signed this week.

The locals, representing workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt Chicago, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Hyatt Regency O'Hare, agreed to engage in bargaining sessions "with reasonable frequency" and not to engage in conduct "that frustrates reaching an agreement."

As well, it agreed to drop proposed contract language on strikes and work stoppages that the NLRB regional director found to be illegal.

"The whole point is the union does not want to come to an agreement because it wants Hyatt to give them non-union hotels in other cities and states," said Peter Andjelkovich, attorney for Hyatt.

Unite Here spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel dismissed the NLRB finding as "a technicality."

"The fact remains that Hyatt has refused to move forward on the safety of its housekeepers and its use of subcontracting," she said.

John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here, said in an earlier interview that, "Hyatt is leading the industry in subcontracting entire departments to outside labor contractors." When subcontractors are used, union workers end up being replaced with non-union workers with lower wages and benefits, he said, adding that workloads are greater, putting workers' health at risk.

Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive of Hyatt, said recently that the hotel industry for decades has used subcontractors to provide staffing flexibility in a business with peaks and valleys and for special circumstances. Hyatt is no different, he said. The company is not proposing any increased of subcontracting in Chicago, Andjelkovich said.

The union's real issue, Hoplamazian asserts, is that it wants the ability to recruit members in other non-union markets using so-called card check method, in which organizers gather signatures from workers. Hyatt favors secret ballot elections.

Wilhelm said Unite Here is "seeking a fair process" for union recruiting.

On Monday, Unite Here is expected to announce a global boycott of Hyatt, ratcheting up the pressure. The union had called for boycotts of specific properties across the U.S.

While Hyatt has settled union contract talks in some markets, it remains at loggerheads with Unite Here in several key cities. -- twitter: @kathy_bergen


(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune

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