Wearing red and white, members of the union Unite Here picketed alongside hotel housekeepers outside Hyatt West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard on Thursday afternoon as part of a nationwide protest.
The group of about 100 union and hotel workers denounced what they called unfair and abusive working conditions at local Hyatt properties.
“The world of housekeeping is invisible. Hyatt housekeepers suffer a lot of abuse on the job,” said Leigh Shelton, a communications specialist with Unite Here Local 11. “They’ve gotten together all across the country to stand up, fight back and say they won't suffer in silence.”
Within hours of the protest, more than a dozen Unite Here members were arrested as part of the civil disobedience demonstration. They were cited and released for blocking a sidewalk or road, according to Unite Here.
The union alleges that Hyatt has eliminated jobs, replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed dangerous workloads on those housekeepers who remain.
Martha Pacheco said that after working for the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza for 10 years, she has carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.
“When I was on disability for surgery, Hyatt sent me a letter saying if I did not return to work within five days, I would be fired,” Pacheco said. “I went to the doctor and had him fill out a form saying he was not responsible for future injuries and I went back to work in pain. I still work in pain and take medicine to get through my shift.”
Sandra Miranda, a housekeeper at the Andaz, said that her colleagues should be respected and not invisible.
“We are putting public pressure on Hyatt to stop the abuse. We are here today to support other Hyatt housekeepers and to gain respect and change,” Miranda said.
A study last year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found high rates of injuries to female housekeepers, particularly at Hyatt.
After studying 50 hotels, the journal found that housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels had the highest rate of injury among the five major companies in the study.
In a statement, the Chicago-based hotel chain called the labor action "more of the same from Unite Here" and said the union "continues to put its energies toward unproductive street theatrics in the name of 'solidarity.' ”
Hyatt also said union leaders have rejected every one of its proposals that matched wage and benefits packages identical to what Unite Here had accepted from other hotel companies.
The prickly negotiation process between Hyatt and workers has been peppered by protests and hotel workers encouraging . The boycotts have cost Hyatt more than $20 million in business, according to a Unite Here press release.
Among its attempts to negotiate a deal, Hyatt posted a video on YouTube earlier this year, urging employees to accept its contract offer.
A call to the Andaz seeking comment on the demonstrations and hotel workers' allegations was not immediately returned.
Shelton hopes that Thursday’s protests will send a strong message to Hyatt and the public.
“We hope that people see the housekeepers out in full force and boycott Hyatt. Boycott the Andaz, the Hyatt in Long Beach,” she said. “We hope that folks will hear the stories of housekeepers and pledge not to go back to Hyatt.”