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Grand Hyatt workers reach out to gay community
QSanAntonio.com, October 18, 2011

Workers from the Grand Hyatt stood outside the hotel during the Human Rights Campaign's Gala and Silent Auction on October 15 and distributed an "Open letter to the LGBT community" detailing the grievances they have against their employer.

Danna Schneider, organizing director for the San Antonio branch of Unite Here, the labor union that has been organizing local Hyatt workers, says that the distribution of flyers on the day of the HRC event was done as an outreach to the LGBT community.

"We're not asking anyone to cancel any events being held at the Grand Hyatt," Schneider told QSanAntonio. She added that there's no boycott in place and that workers simply want to get their message out to the gay community who they consider allies.

"Regrettably, many of our friends in the LGBT community and beyond have been caught in the middle of our struggle with Hyatt," reads the text from the flyer. "From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank those of you who have stood by us even when it was difficult. As Hyatt workers and members of Unite Here, we also want to reaffirm our unequivocal commitment to full LGBT equality."

Last year, the Grand Hyatt was embroiled in a labor dispute over two workers who were fired because they were trying to organize a union at the property. The two sued the hotel. They won their suit and got their jobs back but Unite Here says problems for employees at the hotel continue.

"Hyatt has eliminated jobs, replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed dangerous workloads on those who remain," reads the flyer.

In November of 2010, four employees filed a grievance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, claiming that Grand Hyatt workers are at high risk of sustaining injuries while performing housekeeping duties.

Similar grievances were filed against Hyatt Hotels in Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Clara, Calif.; Los Angeles; Long Beach, Calif.; Honolulu; and Indianapolis.

Grand Hyatt workers during a protest held in July of 2010. (Photos by Antonia Padilla)

In July of this year, 10 San Antonio employees were arrested at a demonstration in front of the Grand Hyatt after they joined hands and sat in a crosswalk on Market Street and blocked traffic.

Unite Here is the first labor union to ratify a comprehensive statement in support of civil and economic rights for LGBT people. It also has contributed funds and organizing assistance in the fight to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Members of Unite Here have marched in Pride parades across the country.

A new web site, SleepWithTheRightPeople.org, is described as a joint effort between Unite Here and the LGBT community. Cleve Jones, a longtime AIDS and LGBT rights activist, is working with Unite Here to help build and expand the partnership.

"Our coalition is calling on members of the LGBT community to 'Sleep With The Right People' by honoring picket lines, respecting boycotts at various Hyatts and other hotels across North America, and whenever possible patronizing unionized hotels when traveling," reads the text on the site's home page.

On the site Jones writes: " . . . we are continuing the important work that Harvey Milk began, building a powerful partnership between the labor movement and the LGBT rights movement. We are in this for the long haul, we know we’re not going to win our rights overnight, and we also understand that rights have never been willingly granted to minority communities unless they're willing to stand up and fight and demand the equal protection under the law that is guaranteed to all Americans."