Pritzker's Recovery Plan: Fire Workers

Boston uprising spreads to Chicago

By Steve Rhodes
|  Monday, Sep 28, 2009  |  Updated 10:44 AM CDT
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Believing hospitality companies are using the shaky economy as an excuse to further squeeze workers and eliminate jobs, hundreds of hospitality workers rallied outside the Park Hyatt Hotel on Thursday afternoon.

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The Hyatt Hotel housekeeping staff is knocking on Penny Pritzker's door, and boy are they pissed.

Pritzker - the local civic maven who is also a big-time donor to the Democratic Party and served as the national finance chair of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign - is on the board of Hyatt, which is owned by her family.

And she's got a lot to answer for: Hyatt just fired nearly 100 housekeepers in Boston and outsourced their work to a company in Georgia.

Quite Republican, wouldn't you say?

And not change workers believe in.

Massachusetts Governor (and Obama pal) Deval Patrick is so upset he's calling on state employees to boycott Hyatt.

“The difficult decision to outsource the housekeeping function at our Boston properties was made in response to the unprecedented economic challenges those hotels are facing in the current business environment,” Hyatt said in a statement. “A precipitous drop in revenues at our Boston hotels has made major cost-cutting measures necessary.”

Perhaps, but the Pritzkers are really, really, really, really, really rich. Really.

“Everybody is so sad,” housekeeper Angela Norena said in an appeal to Pritzker at a protest here at the Park Hyatt Chicago last week. “We have our family.

About 200 people were arrested at the protest.

Over the weekend, Hyatt offered new jobs to the employees it fired at their old wages, but it wasn't clear just how that would work, seeing as how the chain has already hired replacements for the housekeepers' old jobs.

The new jobs also appear to be only guaranteed for a year.

“Hyatt’s latest proposal is simply a smoke screen designed to trick people in to thinking Hyatt is doing the right thing,’’ union president Janice Loux said in a statement.

The fired housekeepers are non-union but their cause has been taken up by organized labor, which may see an opening to organize a hotel chain run by Democrats who are supposed to be on their side.

In the end, the housekeepers could take up their cause with the President's Economic Advisory Board. After all, Penny Pritzker is a member.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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