For Immediate Release
August 24, 2010
Contact: Annemarie Strassel at (312) 617-0495

Over 250 Rabbis and other Jewish leaders sign onto nationwide pledge supporting Hyatt workers

Chicago, IL—Today, Jewish leaders are joining hotel workers in front of Hyatt Global Headquarters in Chicago to release a pledge signed by over 250 Rabbis and other Jewish leaders nationwide in support of Hyatt workers. The release of the petition coincides with an announcement by Hyatt workers of a boycott at three Chicago-area Hyatt properties. Rabbinical allies in four cities today are sending delegations with the pledge to meetings with prospective Hyatt customers.

The national pledge represents the latest escalation of a labor dispute with Hyatt, which has become the target of protests across North America in recent weeks. Hotel workers across North America have endured staff cuts, reduced hours, and excessive injury rates. Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds. In one stark example, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff from its three Boston-area hotels and replaced them with workers from a subcontracting agency earning minimum wage. While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker Family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009.

Leaders from the Jewish community have played a key role in building community support for Hyatt workers across North America. On December 16, 2009, Boston Rabbi Barbara Penzner led a delegation of Jewish leaders to deliver a petition signed by over 200 rabbis to Hyatt executives at Hyatt's Global Headquarters, calling on members of the Jewish community across the country to not to do business with Hyatt in Boston until it rehires the 98 housekeepers it fired from three Boston-area hotels. On June 9, 2010, Penzner returned to Chicago to lead a delegation of nearly 100 Chicago religious leaders to confront Hyatt Hotel's Board of Directors at Hyatt's first annual shareholder meeting in Chicago. In the delegation, religious leaders of multiple faiths expressed their concern for how Hyatt has treated hotel workers across North America.

"Rabbis understand that there is a moral bottom line," says Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Boston. "In hard times the people at the bottom of the ladder are hit the hardest, while the people at the top keep what they have. It is time to share the wealth with the people who helped create it."

The National Association of Jewish Chaplains moved its conference in January from the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, joining groups like the NAACP and NOW in honoring the Boston Hyatt boycott. Elsewhere, the Jewish Labor Committee has pulled business from the Hyatt Century Plaza in Los Angeles, to avoid any risk of dispute there.

"Justice for workers is part of the very DNA of Jewish tradition - and American Jews, we have a deep attachment to the history of the labor movement in this country," says Rabbi Brant Rosen of Chicago. "Although these issues might not affect our community as directly as they used to, Jews still have a sacred responsibility to stand in solidarity with American workers whenever and wherever they are being treated unjustly."

UNITE HERE represents more than 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries. For more information, visit www.unitehere.org.

 

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