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Hyatt protests escalate with hundreds on the street and 11 arrests

Photo: Photos by Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Photos by Michael Barajas

Minutes before arrest: Market Street standoff.

Photo: , License: N/A

Elvia Claudio and daughter Perla Terrazas.

Claudio’s daughter Perla Terrazas, another of those arrested, remarked, “It’s really upsetting to listen to my mother when she comes home, to hear about her and the others being treated like this.”

Maria Soto, another Grand Hyatt housekeeper, says she’s sometimes pushed to clean as many as 30 rooms a day, which Unite Here insists is double the industry average. The heavy workload leads to rushing and increased injuries, which Soto claims aren’t taken seriously. Doctors, she said, are pressured by hotel management not to place work restrictions on housekeeping staff, and some housekeepers are now afraid to even seek medical help, afraid that they’ll anger management. “There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of tension. And when you’re injured, a lot of people work through it because you don’t have a choice,” she said.

The claims aren’t new among local Hyatt workers or unique to the chain’s San Antonio location. Late last year, Unite Here filed a mountain of claims against Hyatt Hotels Corporation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, claims involving properties across the country, including San Antonio. Among the claims were those of former Grand Hyatt worker Maria Carmen Dominguez, who complained repetitive cleaning had strained her shoulder, an injury that went untreated after she was seen by a company-approved doctor. “Had they given her time to heal, it would have been just fine,” said Bethany Holmes, a local Unite Here organizer. “Since she kept working, and since [the Hyatt] wouldn’t agree to the right work restrictions for her, the ligament in her shoulder ended up tearing and now she can’t work at all,” Holmes said, adding that Dominguez’s case was only recently settled.

“It’s that they intimidate people, that’s what bothers me the most,” said Ana Esparza, another Grand Hyatt housekeeper who protested last week. “I know people who are afraid [to go to the doctor]. It’s like someone is intimidating them.”

Drawing attention to what the group calls the “housekeeping crisis” in San Antonio and across the country, Unite Here organized a series of protests outside Hyatt properties nationwide last week, culminating in at least 80 arrests in San Francisco, and at least 35 outside a Hyatt hotel in Cambridge, Mass. In Chicago, Hyatt staff turned heat lamps on the gathered crowd of protesters, for which Park Hyatt Chicago management later issued a public apology, blaming a rogue manager.

Unite Here’s increased efforts in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston have already begun to bear fruit as workers, led by the union, barrage the Hyatt with complaints of unfair labor practices, unsafe working conditions, and inadequate healthcare coverage, said Chris Kutalik, a Unite Here organizer. In April, San Antonio workers protested outside the Grand Hyatt saying the company was encouraging employees to put their families on welfare, distributing CHIP and Medicaid information with employee healthcare registration packets. The union claims Hyatt properties across the country have reacted to Unite Here’s demands by picking off long-time workers and replacing them with minimum-wage temps.

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