Hyatt: Let employees vote on whether to unionize

By Julie Wernau
Posted March 3 at 7:28 p.m.

Four Hyatt hotels in California and Indiana are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to allow employees to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize, a move that goes against the wishes of Unite Here, the hotel workers union.

The union has been pushing for a “card check” vote, in which employees sign cards stating that they wish to be represented by a union. Hyatt has opposed the method, citing concerns that employees could be pressured into pledging support.

“Associates at these hotel have been subjected to intrusive and coercive Unite Here tactics as part of an organizing campaign for more than two years, including unwelcome home visits by union leadership and calls for boycotts that cause financial hardship for our associates,” said Robb Webb, chief human resources officers for Hyatt Hotels Corp. “Our associates are frustrated by these tactics and have told us they want a resolution to this matter.”

Bob Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said research overwhelmingly shows that the “card check” process tends to favor the union; whereas, secret ballots tend to favor the employer because the employer controls the workplace and the message given to employees.

The move could affect labor negotiations in Chicago for contracts covering more than 6,000 workers that expired in August 2009. Hyatt said the union has stalled negotiations to pressure Hyatt into offering up a “card check” election at its non-unionized properties. Unite Here said in the Chicago negotiations no “formal proposal” is on the table regarding card check.

If the NLRB approves the requests, elections would be held within 40 days at Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, Hyatt Regency Long Beach and Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.

Hyatt announced the move to employees at those hotels Thursday and filed a petition at the NLRB’s regional offices.

Unite Here Local 1 spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel called the petitions a publicity stunt.

“From our perspective, there really is no such thing as a fair election in this context when only one side has access to employees. We believe this is not a fair process,” she said.

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