Labor relations between the Park Hyatt Chicago and certain employees were hot enough during a recent strike, but one manager upped the temperature even more by lighting the heaters over strikers on one of the hottest days of the year. The striking workers are now filing charges against the hotel.
It happened on Thursday, July 21, right in the midst of Chicago's brutal heat wave. The hotel workers had finally gone on strike to protest what they believe is Hyatt's abuse of housekeepers and the company's practice of replacing long-term employees with workers from temporary agencies at far lower rates of pay. They had been negotiating for nearly two years.
Those involved in protesting say that they felt the heat of the hotel's wrath when 10 heat lamps in the awning above the Park Hyatt front entrance were turned on over them when they arrived in the morning, and were left on for about an hour.
Once the press got word of the incident, the heat lamps were turned off. This was the same day an excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service, with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees in downtown Chicago.
In a press release the next day, Hyatt admitted that a manager had indeed turned the heat lamps on striking workers. Now representatives of UNITE HERE Local 1, the union representing housekeepers, dishwashers, bellmen and other hotel workers at the Park Hyatt Chicago, have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
"The employer assaulted the employees and tried to fry them by shining heat lamps on them in the middle of what was already a hot, humid day," the union said in a statement.
"Many of my co-workers are getting hurt -- hurting their wrists or backs lifting heavy mattresses or slipping on wet floors -- and Hyatt is ignoring our pain," says Ofelia Martinez, a housekeeper at the Park Hyatt. "Turning the heat lamps on us is just another example of how Hyatt abuses us."
Looks like that hotel manager might have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.