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Editorial: Keeping It Kosher, Forward, June 30, 2011

Open the Gates of Justice

A Clergy Report on Working Conditions at Hyatt Hotels

As faith leaders, we believe that we have a moral responsibility to promote the just and ethical treatment of workers, and to intervene when powerful individuals or institutions seek to undermine their fundamental right as workers and as human beings. We have watched with deep dismay in recent years, as Hyatt, a multi-billion dollar corporation, has eliminated jobs, replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed dangerous workloads on those who remain.

This report, the result of direct conversations with Hyatt workers across the U.S., details a broader practice by Hyatt that we find contrary to the religious traditions we uphold. We have found that Hyatt has undermined the safety and stability of jobs by subcontracting work and increasing housekeeping workload to dangerous levels. Moreover, we have found that in refusing to remain neutral as non-union Hyatt employees organize, Hyatt has attempted to thwart the efforts by non-union hotel workers to improve their lives and exercise their fundamental right as workers to collectively bargain. We find these practices to be oppression against workers. In the Jewish legal tradition, the Jewish clergy identify this mistreatment of workers as the Biblical prohibition oshek.

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We call on Hyatt to directly hire its workers, pay them a living wage, refrain from interfering when workers organize for a voice in their workplace decisions, and embrace the solidarity of workers across hotels rather than trying to divide workers from one another.

We believe that a more democratic and equitable industry in which workers and employers collectively determine wages and working conditions is a blessing that Hyatt should embrace. We are humbled by the commitment that workers have expressed for each other. We are inspired by their willingness to sacrifice so that they and their coworkers in hotels across the country will have the power to make the hospitality industry accountable to them as equals with their employers. We pray that God may bless their solidarity.

Workers at 18 Hyatt Hotels across the United States and Canada have called for boycotts of the hotels where they work. We pledge to honor their boycotts. The Jewish clergy pledge to treat the Hyatt as lo kasher/not kosher for events and celebrations until it treats its workers with justice.

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