Agreement could end bitter Hyatt labor dispute

July 1, 2013

The dispute led to a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels Corp. It got more attention after President Obama nominated Penny Pritzker, whose family founded the hotel chain, to be commerce secretary. At one point, Hyatt turned winter heat lamps on Chicago pickets as summer temperatures neared triple digits.

Now it could all be over.

Hyatt and the union Unite Here on Monday announced a deal that covers thousands of company employees in Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles. The sides say the agreement could end the boycott.

“That’s extremely good news for businesses and groups that are interested in coming to Chicago to hold their conventions or stay in those particular properties,” said Doug Patrick, Hyatt’s senior vice-president of human resources for the Americas.

Hyatt and the union say the pact spells out a process for unorganized workers to vote on whether they want the union to represent them.

Unite Here President D. Taylor said that provision would help the union expand its Hyatt ranks. “We feel very confident about growth we’re going to achieve in the short term under this settlement,” Taylor said.

Patrick said Hyatt “did not stand down.” He said the voting would take place only at hotels where the company and union had “mutual agreement” that “this process makes sense.”

The sides said they wouldn’t provide a copy of the national deal until contract negotiations in each city were complete and until workers ratified those pacts.

The contracts, which would run through 2018, would increase Hyatt costs for the unionized labor an average of 4 percent a year, Patrick said. Most of that increase would be the result of higher spending on wages and medical insurance, he added.

The Chicago contracts would cover about 1,500 workers. Raises would be retroactive to 2009, when a set of three-year contracts between Hyatt and the union expired.

Unite Here has led brief strikes protesting Hyatt outsourcing and the company’s allegedly unsafe working conditions. Both sides say the new contracts will include no new safety language but will bring some outsourced work back to Hyatt.

The union said it would not call off the boycott until the ratifications in all four cities.

Chip Mitchell is WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMitchell1 and @WBEZoutloud, and connect with him through Facebook and LinkedIn.