Friday, February 22, 2013

Hyatt Penalizes LGBTQ Organization For Backing Boycott

Hyatt demands steep penalty fee from LGBT nonprofit for supporting workers’ rights

[New York, NY] – After learning about the worker-called global boycott of Hyatt Hotels, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, a national network of foundations and corporate funders that support LGBT communities, decided to move its annual retreat from a New Mexico Hyatt to another location. In response to the move, Hyatt demanded a $40,600 cancellation fee – a substantial percentage of the LGBT nonprofit’s operating budget and more than what Hyatt would have charged if the retreat had actually been held there.

“The moment we heard about the boycott, we felt we had to move the retreat,” said Ben Francisco Maulbeck, President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues. “There’s such a strong history of solidarity between the movements for workers’ rights and LGBT rights – dating back to Harvey Milk’s early organizing work in San Francisco. We just couldn’t imagine having our retreat, talking about issues of equality and social change for LGBT communities, in a space that we knew was under boycott by workers.”

“As a Hyatt worker and a gay man, I am grateful for the stand Funders for LGBTQ Issues is taking,” said Johnnie Rangel, who has been a server at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco for six years. “They are merely honoring the boycott my co-workers and I have called against Hyatt.”

Hyatt workers called for the boycott in response to the hotel employer’s poor treatment of workers, particularly housekeepers. In 2009, the managers of three Hyatts in the Boston area fired the entire housekeeping staff after asking the workers to train their replacements from an outsourcing agency, paying the new workers close to minimum wage and with no benefits.
In July 2012, the global boycott was endorsed by leaders of progressive organizations nationwide, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), Pride at Work, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Center for Community Change, and many others.

Funders for LGBTQ issues asked Hyatt to consider waiving or reducing the cancellation fee as a gesture of Hyatt’s support for LGBT communities, particularly given that the nonprofit had not previously known about the boycott. Hyatt refused the request and demanded the full penalty fee.

“I’m very disappointed that Hyatt would punish an organization dedicated to supporting my rights as an LGBT person simply for standing in solidarity with us,” said Rangel. “To me, the struggle for our rights as LGBT people and the struggle for our rights as workers is one and the same.”

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