I've been debating whether to post this for the last month, but finally decided the time is right. The dust has settled and I have had plenty of time to make sure I am just not reacting emotionally. Here goes:
In late April I had an early morning appointment in Washington, DC and was absolutely disgusted by what I encountered on my way from Union Station to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was just after 8am when I walked by the Hyatt Regency Capital Hill on New Jersey Avenue.
I had heard yelling a few blocks back but it was only as I drew closer to the hotel that I ascertained what was going on. A big inflatable rat with leering teeth holding a bag of money was perched on the sidewalk as a group of about two dozen red-shirted men and women were marching from one side of the hotel to the other, many with loudspeakers, yelling at the top of their lungs toward the hotel rooms "2-4-6-8, we want justice, we want pay" and an assortment of other cries for "fairness" and raises.
My first thought was I am going to go home and rip these workers a new one on my blog. How shameful that hotel workers would wake up the people they are hired to serve because they think they are not making enough money in a time when the unemployment rate in the District is 10%. But then I talked to one of the agitators.
Turns out he didn't work for hotel. Nor did any of the other protesters. They all happened to be black as well. I was given a website to check out and this is what I found:
Our members are guest room attendants, cooks, bell staff, food and beverage servers, kitchen workers and laundry workers, and they take great pride in delivering the quality service and amenities that travelers expect on the road. Our hotel membership is characterized by large percentages of African American and immigrant workers, representing the diversity of North America's workforce.
Okay, so far, so good.
Hotel workers have demonstrated, picketed, and organized on the job to build a strong union that fights for good wages, affordable health benefits and retirement security, as well as strong contract language protecting them from injuries at work, promoting the hiring of African Americans and protecting the rights of immigrant workers.
Okay, so an African-American/immigrant political action committee. Fine.
I do not know how tight the hotel labor market is in DC, but had these been my employees I would have done everything in my power to terminate every one of their jobs. It is one thing to ask for an increase in pay and benefits (and even to strike for them), but it is quite another matter to rudely disrupt the hotel guests. I understand their goal--tick off hotel guests enough and they won't stay at Hyatt anymore, believing that there is labor disharmony and their night's rest is likely to be cut short. This will cause Hyatt to cave in.
But the sword is two-edged. By angering the people who indirectly their pay their wages, they jeopardize their own jobs. If no one stays at the Hyatt Regency Washington, DC anymore, there won't be any wages to bicker about because there won't be any jobs left.
But by not using the hotel's own workers, I have to give UNITE HERE some credit. It's a clever ruse. I nevertheless condemn the organization for thuggish tactics that almost called for a Park Hyatt Chicago response...