Penny Pritzker is President Obama’s nominee to become the next secretary of commerce. She is also a longtime member of the board of directors of the Hyatt hotel chain and heir to the Hyatt fortune. But her nearly decade-long record on the board, says UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, shows why the U.S. Senate should not confirm her. In a letter to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Taylor writes:
Under her leadership, Hyatt has exhibited a broad pattern of labor abuses, including aggressive outsourcing, low wages and the mistreatment of housekeepers. Together these practices single out Hyatt as the worst hotel employer in the United States.
Some Hyatt housekeepers, says UNITE HERE, clean as many as 30 rooms a day, getting paid as little as $2 per room. In a first for the hotel industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a company-wide letter to Hyatt, warning it of the hazards its housekeepers face on the job. Hyatt workers have been locked in a protracted battle with the company, which has resulted in numerous strikes nationwide and a global boycott of Hyatt hotels.
Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt housekeeper, says the commerce secretary's “first concern should be to create good, family-sustaining jobs for all Americans.” Pritzker, she says, does not fit that description.
Under Pritzker's direction, Hyatt has led the hotel industry in a race to the bottom by aggressively subcontracting out career hotel jobs to minimum wage temps. This is not the model that will lead our country to a bright economic future.
The Commerce Committee began hearings Thursday on Pritzker and a number of Hyatt housekeepers attended the hearing (see photo). But no workers or union representatives made the witness list. You can get a recap on Twitter with the hashtag #hyatthurts.
Pritzker has served on the Hyatt board since 2004 and that, says Taylor:
Has given her ample opportunity to use her position at Hyatt to make the company a leader in demonstrating that running a profitable business does not depend on abusing workers and driving down standards. In her years in Hyatt Hotel’s leadership she has failed to do so….We urge you to vote against Ms. Pritzker’s nomination.