Labor activists launched a boycott of two downtown Seattle hotels Tuesday, accusing the hotels’ owner of trying to stymie union-organizing efforts of housekeepers and other employees.
UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing thousands of local hospitality workers, called for the boycott of the Hyatt at Olive 8 and the Grand Hyatt Seattle, both owned by R.C. Hedreen Co.
In a protest in front of the Olive 8 hotel, activists said Hedreen has refused to abide by a pact negotiated between the national hotel-worker union and the Hyatt Corp. that provides a “fair process” for employees to decide whether they want to unionize.
David Thyer, president of R.C. Hedreen, disputed that claim, saying the company has abided by the Hyatt agreement and by federal labor laws that protect union organizing rights.
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“If our employees choose to organize then we are not going to stand in the way,” Thyer said. But he said Hedreen will not be “bullied by the union” into divulging information on employees that would make it easier for organizers to approach them.
The boycott is another round in a busy spring and summer of activism on behalf of low-wage service workers. That campaign has included strikes by fast-food restaurant employees, an initiative seeking a $15-an-hour minimum wage for airport workers in SeaTac and efforts to block a Whole Foods in West Seattle over union complaints.
At the protest Tuesday, dozens of activists from several local unions stood across the street from the 364-room Hyatt at Olive 8, chanting “Check out! Don’t check in!” to the few passers-by at the hotel entrance.
“We’re calling on customers not to eat, not to sleep and not to walk into those hotels” until Hedreen agrees to the provisions making it easier for workers to organize, said Erik Van Rossum, president of UNITE HERE Local 8.
Yuan Ping Tang, a housekeeper at Olive 8, is among those trying to organize a union for the hotel’s 200 workers. He said he pays $300 a month for insurance that covers 80 percent of medical costs for his family of three.
“The biggest thing that I hope for is affordable family health care,” he said.
Tang, 52, who has worked at the hotel since arriving from Guangzhou, China, about five years ago, said he started at $10.75 an hour, and received a $2.60-an-hour raise last year after he and other workers started making noise about unionizing.
Tang added that hotel managers are hostile to unions and have told workers they can call police if union organizers show up at their homes.
Thyer said Hedreen employees “are being treated fairly” and haven’t unionized because they are paid as well or better than workers at Seattle’s few unionized hotels.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner