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May 04 2012

First humiliate them, then fire them

Here’s a thing.

Dear Friends,

Martha Reyes walked in the employee entrance of the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency to the sound of her male colleagues laughing.

She believed they were laughing at her.

It was “Housekeeping Appreciation Week” at the Hyatt and to celebrate, a digitally altered photo collage of Hyatt Housekeepers’ faces — including Martha’s and her sister Lorena’s — superimposed on bikini-clad cartoon-bodies was posted on a bulletin board at work.

She felt humiliated and embarrassed. But she knew her sister Lorena — also a housekeeper at Hyatt — would be even more so. Martha tore the posters of her and her sister down. Then, with management present, a coworker told Martha she needed to return the photos.

She refused and said if they wanted it back, they’d have to take her to court.

Hyatt management fired Martha and Lorena just a few weeks later.

Sign our petition to Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian asking him to apologize to Martha and Lorena and reinstate them with full back-pay. The Reyes sisters and community allies will deliver it next week to Hyatt officials.

http://sumofus.org/campaigns/hyatt/?sub=taf

They were fired for allegedly taking too long on their lunch break. But we don’t buy that excuse for a second. Here’s why:

Martha and Lorena worked at that hotel as housekeepers for 7 and 24 years respectively. During that time, the Reyes sisters were good employees. On the day she was fired, the HR Director told Martha she was an “excellent worker” and that there hadn’t been any complaints about her. Before the day Lorena was fired, she had never in her 24 years been written up for a single break violation.

The firing of the Reyes sisters is a new low, even for Hyatt, which is looking to grow it’s hotel chain in major tourist markets like Australia and the United Kingdom.

What happened to the Reyes sisters is just another example of Hyatt’s culture of disrespect for its workers: Hyatt housekeepers have high rates of injury, and in 2011 various state and federal agencies issued 18 citations against Hyatt for alleged safety violations. Hyatt has even lobbied against new laws that would make housekeeping work safer, and has made it a pattern  of firing housekeepers only to hire subcontractors everywhere from Manilla to Boston.

Martha is the mother of five children and fears she may lose her house. Lorena is a mother of three and is struggling as the sole supporter of her family. As long-time employees of Hyatt, the Reyes sisters deserve some basic decency and the right to complain about their workplace without being fired.

As potential Hyatt customers, we have to draw the line. Sexually degrading housekeeping staff is unacceptable by any measure and the CEO of should take responsibility for Hyatt’s culture of disrespect for its workers now.

With May Day just passed — a day when people all over the world pause to acknowledge the work of people like Martha and Lorena — we at SumOfUs.org are humbled by workers like the Reyes sisters who dare to stand up for their rights. We are proud to stand with them, and join our partners at UNITE-HERE, in demanding justice for the two sisters.

http://sumofus.org/campaigns/hyatt/?sub=taf

Thank you!

I signed it. Thanks to the Orlando conference, I was able to check the box next to “I have stayed at Hyatt in the past year.”

14 comments

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  1. 1
    sandrabeardsley

    Thank you for this, shared and signed. I’m too angry about this to say more.

  2. 2
    Robert B.

    That is not the way you’re supposed to appreciate your housekeepers, assholes. Signed.

  3. 3
    Switchhttr

    WTF? If anyone needed firing in this situation, it’s those responsible for the photoshopped images being made and displayed at the workplace. Can you say “hostile work environment sexual harassment”? I knew you could.

    Hope they get a lawyer and take the Hyatt to the cleaners. If the bottom line is all the management cares about, that’s the language they need to hear.

  4. 4
    Desert Son, OM

    Ophelia, I love your blog, but it breaks my heart almost every time I visit. None of that is a criticism.

    Petition signed, with outrage.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  5. 5
    Zengaze

    The hotel and leisure industry is notorious for treating its employees like shit, they continue to get away with it because their staff are generally very low skilled and shit scared of losing their jobs if they raise their heads above the parapet. It’s fucking disgusting, the staff themselves won’t unionise out of fear!

    I’m a small employer myself, and ensure my staff get all their entightlements. It may make me wealthier being a tyrant, but I prefer having the quietness of conscience that comes from being a decent human being.

    On a final note I would urge anyone who is in contact with these sisters to push them to get representation and pursue this matter, I’m not in the know regarding labour laws where they are, and I know the right wing are making it a lot easier thought the west to treat employees like shit, but on the surface it appears like any industrial tribunal anywhere couldn’t endorse this companies actions.

  6. 6
    Winterwind

    Signed. Blood boiling. I wish I could contact the sisters and say something supportive.

  7. 7
    NathanDST

    Signed when it hit my inbox. I don’t recall staffing at Hyatt, so could not check that.

  8. 8
    paleotn

    Petitions forwarded to the Hyatt CEO are all well and good, but at first brush, this appears to be a classic sexual harassment – retaliation case. And against a big bucks employer to boot. A potential slam dunk that would never see the inside of a court room. If they haven’t yet, I suggest these women get legal representation as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if attorneys were tripping over each other right now in a mad dash to represent them.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Let’s hope so!

  10. 10
    mnb0

    Done.
    Housekeepers do important work. Without them (I’m a teacher) I could not do my work properly.

  11. 11
    highdudgeonaz

    Signed.

  12. 12
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Signed the minute I heard about it.

  13. 13
    Olle Sahlin

    Been a member of Sumofus for a little while, so naturally I’ve signed this petition and others. I heartily recommend joining Sumofus!

  14. 14
    J.C. Samuelson

    Signed.

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