A few weeks ahead of its annual retreat to be held March 13 to 16, Funders for LGBTQ Issues decided to move its meeting from a New Mexico Hyatt hotel to another location. A national network of foundations and corporate funders that support LGBT communities, Funders for LGBTQ Issues made the move after learning that the Unite Here union has been staging a boycott of Hyatt.
“The moment we heard about the boycott, we felt we had to move the retreat. 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.” President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues Ben Francisco Maulbeck stated in a press release issued by Unite Here. “We just couldn’t imagine having our retreat, talking about issues of equality & social change for LGBT communities, in a space that we knew was under boycott by workers.”
In response to the move, Hyatt requested a $40,600 cancellation fee under the terms of the contract that had been agreed to by the organization and the hotel. Unite Here claims that Hyatt’s enforcement of the contract is actually an effort to penalize Funders for LGBTQ Issues for supporting the boycott.
“Hyatt seems to pick and choose whether they want to enforce or not enforce the terms of [a] contract. We know Hyatt waives these fees. We consider what is in the contract to be a penalty. The decision by Funders for LGBTQ Issues was made on principle,” said Cleve Jones, a paid representative of Unite Here who is leading a coalition between the labor and the LGBT rights movements.
Hyatt disagrees with Jones's accusations and stands by its “industry standard cancellation policy"; providing Metro Weekly the following statement: “We’re sorry that the Funders for LGBTQ chose to cancel its retreat at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in New Mexico but we believe the organization was misled about our workplace, our relationships with our associates, and our commitment to the LGBT community.”
John Tanzella says he supports workers' rights and unions. But the president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) doesn’t back the effort to have gay travelers boycott Hyatt.
“I don’t see the connection,” said Tanzella.
Tanzella believes that the Unite Here has every right to advocate for employees but also believes that efforts to link its cause to the LGBT community is misguided.
“For many years, Hyatt has been a leader of LGBT equality inside their company and for the community as a whole,” said Tanzella. “It would be hard to turn our back on a partner that has been good to the community, good to gay travelers and good to IGLTA.”
IGLTA’s annual convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, May 2 to 4. In a five-tier system of partnerships, IGLTA lists Hyatt as a gold-lever partner, its second tier.
Since July 2012, Unite Here has been calling for a boycott of all Hyatt hotels. Representing hotel and other service industry employees, the labor union claims that Hyatt abuses its housekeepers, has replaced longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposed health-threatening workloads on those who remain. All claims that Hyatt denies.
Unite Here has found support from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. At the press conference announcing the launch of the boycott, Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper stated, ”We stand here because we are workers too. And, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – particularly those of color – we are acutely aware of what it means to be economically vulnerable. Every day, many of us fear that we may lose or be denied a job simply because of who we are or who we love, due to a lack of federal LGBT employment protections. Any abuse and discrimination of workers should never be tolerated, which is why we are here today.”
And, although Nipper raised the issue of discrimination, Hyatt has repeatedly been named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). For nearly a decade, Hyatt has earned a perfect 100 percent rating on the Corporate Equality Index, an annual survey administered by the HRC Foundation. To qualify for the perfect rating, a company must not engage in action that would undermine the goal of LGBT equality.
And while Jones says that “thousands of Hyatt workers across the U.S. and Canada, and indeed, around the world, are united in [supporting the boycott],” an anonymous survey of more than 70,000 Hyatt employees worldwide conducted by researchers at Gallup found high employee satisfaction and engagement.
As a result of the survey, Gallup named Hyatt a recipient of a 2012 Gallup Great Workplace Award. In the press release announcing the award winners, James K. Harter, Gallup's chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing, stated: "Engaged employees are more productive, safer, more customer-centric, and more profitable. They are also 3.5 times more likely to be thriving in their overall lives, experience better days, and have fewer unhealthy days. In short, these winners are improving lives as they improve the overall performance of their companies."
More information on Unite Here's boycott is available here: www.sleepwiththerightpeople.org.
Hyatt's official statement on the boycott is available here: www.hyattworkplace.com/statement-regarding-unitehere-boycott.