Updated with reporting and photos from Weekly reporter Steve La, at the Andaz.
Workers of Unite Here Local 11 hotel workers union began picketing the trendy and tony Andaz at 4 this morning, as a work stoppage starts there over "staff cuts, reduced hours, and excessive injury rates," according to a union release. Hyatt workers have been without a contract since November 2009, as have 4,000 other L.A. area hotel workers. The hotel is continuing to operate.
The union charges that Hyatt, which is controlled by the wealthy Chicagoan Pritzker family, who are close to President Obama, is trying to lock in "recession contracts" to lower labor costs even as hotel revenue begins to return to pre-recession levels.
Employees had been working under the terms of the expired contract.
Today's rally, which the union plans to continue until 10 p.m. tonight, featured chants of "What Do We Want? Justice? When Do We Want It? Now!" Some union members yelled at cars pulling into the Andaz.
Hyatt responded sharply: "It is time for Local 11 leadership to stop putting their own agenda above the economic interests of our associates," said managers of the Andaz and Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in a release. (Workers at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza have authorized a work stoppage but have not gone out on strike yet.)
Management says the union's real agenda is to obtain nationwide "card check" neutrality at Hyatt hotels. (In a "card check" arrangement, the union need only get the majority of workers to sign a card saying they want to be in a union, rather than winning a majority in a secret ballot election. Unions like card check because they say management manipulates secret ballot elections through coercion. Management says the shoe is on the other foot with card check.)
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According to the company, the current contract includes: Average wages of $8 to $9 per hour for tipped employees, and about $15.50 an hour for non-tipped employees; no-cost pension and no-cost health care for full-time employees; holiday pay and paid vacation days; free meals; 12 free Hyatt hotel stays and discounted family and friends rates; education reimbursement; and transit cards.
The real issue for workers, according to the union, is the reduction of staff and hours for some workers, forcing workers on the job to work harder for the same pay.
Here's one picketer: "Hyatt has been blaming the cutbacks on the recession, yet they're building more hotels across the country," said Brad Bowen, 29, who works the front desk at the Andaz. "We're breaking our backs doing the jobs of four or five people."
In July we brought you coverage of a demonstration at the Andaz that led to 63 arrests.