For Immediate Release
March 8, 2012
On International Women's Day, Housekeepers call on Hyatt to Stop Hurting Women
"Clothesline Project" actions across country expose Hyatt's abuses in wake of "Bikini Picture" outrage
[Santa Clara, CA] Today, March 8, women from across the Bay Area are speaking out against Hyatt's mistreatment of women in protests at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and Grand Hyatt San Francisco. The action, which marks International Women's Day, features a "Clothesline Project" bearing messages and stories of the struggles women face at work. Scores of community leaders and supporters join Hyatt workers in the protests at 8:00 AM in Santa Clara and 12:00 PM in San Francisco.
Thursday's actions come at a time of growing concern over Hyatt's treatment of women workers. Women workers of Hyatt Hotels struggle daily with an employer that injures their bodies, disrespects their rights as mothers, and treats workers as if they are disposable. Hyatt housekeeper injury rates are high, and its subcontractors exploit immigrant women. Hyatt has opposed legislation in California that would make housekeeping work safer. In San Francisco, the Grand Hyatt threatened to fire a woman who could not return to work three days after a Caesarian Section. Last October, the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara fired two sisters with 30 years of combined experience, after an objection to the posting of demeaning pictures of housekeepers in bikinis on a company bulletin board.
"One day I came to work and saw men laughing at pictures on the wall. Someone had posted images of housekeepers' faces attached to the bodies of women wearing bikinis," says Martha Reyes, one of the two sisters. "I was so embarrassed. For me this is no joke. I take my job very seriously, and all I ask is to be treated with respect. Instead, Hyatt fired me, and now I may lose my home."
Hyatt's treatment of women workers has drawn broad support from women for a nationwide boycott of Hyatt. In January, feminist icon Gloria Steinem met with Martha Reyes and her sister Lorena and pledged to honor the Hyatt boycott. Over 700 academics from over 150 universities have signed a faculty petition condemning, "the sexualization of housekeepers" as "an appalling expression of power that has no place at work," and calling on Hyatt to reinstate the Reyes sisters to their jobs. The National Organization for Women (NOW), Feminist Majority Foundation, National Women's Health Network, and 10 members of the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women are among the thousands of individuals and organizations that have pledged to honor the Hyatt boycott.
Patricia Bellasalma, President of California NOW, spoke at the San Francisco event and accompanied a delegation of women leaders into the hotel to demand the Reyes sisters' reinstatement. Bellasalma says, "Hyatt's actions are an insult to women everywhere. I am proud to stand with Martha and Lorena Reyes and the women of San Francisco on International Women's Day to speak out for dignity and respect for all women who work."
International Women's Day has a long history in labor activism. The holiday, now in its 101st year, marks the anniversary of women garment workers in New York City demanding better working conditions in both 1857 and 1908.