On October 12, 2012, 70 women and community members from across Silicon Valley spoke out against Hyatt’s disrespect of women and their bodies in a protest at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. The action, which marks the one year anniversary of Hyatt’s firing of Martha and Lorena Reyes, featured a “Women’s Solidarity Quilt” bearing messages of support for the two sisters and stories of the struggles women face at work. Quilts, a traditionally female art form, have long represented women’s role as the social backbone of our communities and their solidarity for one another.
On November 18, 2011, Martha and Lorena Reyes each filed a retaliation charge against the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara with the federal agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Their cases are still under investigation at the EEOC. The housekeepers were among many Hyatt employees whose faces were pasted atop bikini-clad images on the company’s bulletin board. Humiliated, Martha Reyes tore down the photographs of herself and her sister. About a month later, Hyatt Regency Santa Clara fired both sisters.
Addressing the crowd, Martha Reyes said: “It’s been a year and we’re still waiting to hear an apology from Hyatt. But we’re here to show we’re not giving up.”
Her sister, Lorena Reyes, spoke about what the last year has been like:
“It’s been hard to keep going without a job. I’ve used all my savings and have sold almost all the gold I own, including my wedding ring. But we need to keep telling this story, and we will until they give us our jobs back.”
Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employers in the hotel industry by abusing its housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposing dangerous and health-threatening workloads on those who remain. In a first in the hotel industry, the federal government issued a letter to Hyatt in April 2012, warning the company of hazards their housekeepers face.
Rally participant and Hyatt employee Nenita Ibe explained why she came to the rally.
“We’re here for Martha and Lorena, but we’re also here demanding respect from Hyatt. I’ve worked for them for a long time, and I hurt my shoulder while working for them. And still they don’t even treat us with respect.”
Hyatt’s mistreatment of women workers has drawn broad support for the global boycott of Hyatt, including pledges to boycott Hyatt by feminist icon Gloria Steinem, the National Organization of Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority Foundation. The boycott also has the support from allies of women, such as DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the National Football Association. More than 100,000 people across the globe have signed a petition demanding the Reyes sisters’ reinstatement.
Sabrina Parra-Garcia is a researcher for UNITE HERE Local 19. Her post first appeared on Labor’s Edge and is republished with permission.
Tags: Hyatt Boycott