Press Release

Annemarie Strassel
(312) 617-0495

For Immediate Release

February 21, 2012

University Faculty Nationwide Call on Hyatt to Rehire Housekeepers

Representing signers from 150+ universities, faculty deliver petition to Hyatt Directors  

Today, faculty from universities nationwide are releasing a statement with signers from over 150 universities, calling on Hyatt "uphold the dignity of women" and rehire two housekeepers who were fired from the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency last fall. Martha Reyes and her sister Lorena Reyes were fired after Martha objected to the posting of a bikini-clad collage of themselves and other housekeepers on a company bulletin board. Faculty in Chicago and the Bay Area are leading delegations today to members of Hyatt's Board of Directors to deliver the petition.

Outraged by Hyatt's actions, Women's and Gender Studies faculty from several universities nationwide initiated the petition, explaining to colleagues in a cover letter that, "the sexualization of housekeepers is an appalling expression of power that has no place at work, . . . [and] it belongs to a long list of well-documented abusive and unsafe practices that Hyatt housekeepers, many of them women of color, all over the country endure." In the statement signed by over 700 individuals from over 150 universities, supporters call on Hyatt to "reinstate the Reyes sisters" and "respond to Hyatt workers' demands" that Hyatt "correct the unsafe, hazardous, and demeaning conditions facing them at work."

A collage of digitally-altered Hyatt Housekeepers in bikinis was posted in the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara in late September 2011 during Hyatt's "Housekeeping Appreciation Week." Both Martha and her sister Lorena Reyes were fired after Martha objected to the display. Lorena and Martha had more than 30 years of service combined, working at that hotel property. In November 2011, the Reyes sisters filed a retaliation charge against the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara with the federal agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

Since the time of Reyes sisters' firing, scores of women's advocates, including Gloria Steinem, have pledged their support for women working at Hyatt. In response to other reported abuses of Hyatt workers nationwide, over 3000 individuals and organizations, including the National Organization of Women and Feminist Majority, have pledged not to do business with Hyatt.

"I came to work and saw men laughing at the pictures, and I was so embarrassed to see my face pasted on a bikini body," says Martha Reyes. "For me this is no joke. I take my job very seriously, and all I ask is to be treated with respect."

This incident is just one of many injustices against the Hyatt's housekeeping staff. In a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examining a 50 hotel properties from 5 different hotel companies, Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers studied. In 2011, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or its state counterparts issued 18 citations against the Hyatt at 11 hotels and 3 citations against one of the Hyatt's housekeeping subcontractors at one of those hotels.

Faculty, the Reyes sisters and the lawyers representing the housekeepers are available for interview. 

UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.

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