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Unite Here Local 11 Will Represent Hyatt Employees
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
UPDATE, 4:35 p.m., April 8, 2013 – Local and regional civic leaders, including Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, announced today the decision by Long Beach Hyatt hotel workers to unionize with Unite Here Local 11.
“Today’s announcement highlights an investment in the most important capital – human capital and I believe again demonstrates the long-term perspective that the Hyatt Corporation and their local team have for this city,” Foster said during the press conference. “It is not a secret that Unite Here and Hyatt haven’t always had the warmest of relationships; and Sacramento and Washington are providing us constant reminders that it is not easy to find the middle ground in today’s political debate. There is a ways to go still in this process.”
General Manager Stephen D’Agostino, representing Hyatt Regency Long Beach and Hyatt The Pike Long Beach, told the Business Journal, “We’re very excited about it. We have always represented that our employees choose what they want to do, as Hyatt, as a company, and this was a perfect opportunity for us to do that. We wanted to make sure that the hotel workers were well represented in what they wanted to do.”
Unite Here was brought into the hotel last month to offer information to employees about the union and what representation could mean for them. “I took them around to each department, introducing the [Unite Here] organizers,” D’Agostino said. “I asked them to sit down with them and get to know who they are. After a couple days of that, we brought in ballot boxes and they voted.”
D’Agostino confirmed that the election occurred sometime in late March, and last Tuesday an independent judge saw a majority of the eligible employees’ votes were in favor of organizing with Unite Here. “Hyatt does embrace that,” he said. The Hyatt and Unite Here have decided to not release the vote breakdown beyond indicating that a majority of employees voted in favor of representation.
Unite Here and Hyatt Regency Long Beach have had a difficult relationship over the years. In March 2011, Hyatt Regency petitioned to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union election. At the time, Unite Here did not want to participate.
“We are moving forward in a positive way,” Leigh Shelton, spokesperson for Unite Here Local 11, told the Business Journal. “We are putting the past conflict and struggle behind us. I think with the commitment from both sides to meet at the bargaining table in a formal way and negotiate a contract, that is great for the employees at both hotels.”
The Business Journal confirmed with NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland that this election was not run by the NRLB nor does the NLRB certify election judges. “There’s another way for unions to form other than an NLRB election – the employer can agree to recognize the union if a majority of employees show they want one, whether through cards, a petition, or a non-NRLB election,” Cleeland said in an e-mail. Shelton later clarified in an e-mail that the private election was overseen by independent federal arbitrator Frederic Horowitz.
The decision to unionize both Long Beach Hyatt hotels came as a surprise to many, as the election was not publicized until after the results were verified. So who brought Hyatt and Unite Here together to make this happen?
“Councilmember Suja Lowenthal made a call to Hyatt to say, ‘Hey, can we make this conversation happen?,” D’Agostino said. “It’s one of the options that Measure N gives us. The option was explored and both parties put their initial thoughts aside and we said, ‘Let’s talk.’”
Measure N, the “living wage” ballot initiative passed by Long Beach voters in November 2012, mandates a minimum wage of $13 per hour, plus certain benefits, for hospitality workers at Long Beach hotels with more than 100 rooms. Hyatt Regency Long Beach has 528 rooms, while Hyatt The Pike Long Beach has 138. An element of the “living wage” measure that played a role in this union election is that hotels may avoid the $13 minimum wage mandate if they opt to unionize.
“From a Hyatt standpoint, we felt we should take a look at the options,” D’Agostino said. “We wanted to see what was potentially best for our employees. That’s what Hyatt is all about; what’s best for our employees. . . . If you think about it, we sell authentic hospitality. If our guests are happy, then they are going to come back and bring us more business. If our employees are not happy, it’s really hard to have our guests happy.”
Shelton said she expects represented parties to decide on bargaining priorities in the coming weeks. “I think the workers are really excited about the way we negotiate contracts,” she said. “The workers are present at every negotiating session. They make priorities about what they want in their contract. Working conditions, health benefits, pensions are all taken into account. We [hope to] hammer out a good deal with the hotel.”
April 8, 2013 – Employees at Hyatt Regency Long Beach and Hyatt The Pike Long Beach have elected to unionize with the local Unite Here chapter, according to a joint announcement issued this morning by Hyatt hotels in Long Beach, Unite Here Local 11 and Long Beach City Councilmember Suja Lowenthal.
The election results were tallied and confirmed last week by an independent election judge of the National Labor Relations Board. Hyatt employees were notified immediately.
Long Beach’s Hyatt hotels have been part of Unite Here’s boycott list for years. The election results mark an end to the boycott and the possibility for better relations between Unite Here, Hyatt hotels in Long Beach and other union groups.
“This is an opportunity for our city because, now that we are off of [Unite Here’s] do-not-patronize list, we will be able to book labor meetings in the city,” Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, told the Business Journal. “We look forward to doing that. It does open up additional markets because they have been boycotting us.”
Look for a more detailed story online this afternoon.