Employees at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio will soon find a new notice posted on backroom walls of the downtown hotel, thanks to a settlement between the hotel, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, and the ambitious service-industry union Unite Here.
To give you a taste of the substance of the two-page flyer, it opens:
Form, join or assist a union;
Choose representatives to bargain with us on your behalf,
Act together with other employees for your benefit and protection;
Choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.
WE WILL NOT do anything to Interfere with those rights.
That last line may represent a change in behavior for the company, which current and former employees in San Antonio and elsewhere accuse of using intimidation tactics, including firings and threats of surveillance, to keep staff from organizing for collective bargaining power.
Unite Here union member Gabriel Morales, a UTSA student of political science and philosophy who was fired by the Hyatt last September, received a $5,385 check and invitation to return to work as an in-room dining server as part of that settlement. Monday was his first day back on the job. Fellow union member and Hyatt pastry chef Greg Fox even baked him a cake (right).
Another employee who chose not to return to work bagged a $12,500 check from the Hyatt. Both payments were for back pay, according to National Labor Relations Board documents.
The NLRB took up Unite Here's case by filing a complaint against the hotel in January, alleging union intimidation, interrogations, and threats of surveillance. But before the March 22 court date arrived, in which Grand Hyatt officials were to stand before the NLRB's administrative law judge, company officials blinked, and the three parties went to work on a settlement.
“My coming back to work means a great deal to the people inside,” said Morales, holding a clutch of balloons across the street from the hotel. “I feel like the time after I was fired, the company was trying to make an example of me. I feel like they tried to erase me from the memory of the hotel.”
The Hyatt denied the allegations of the NLRB's complaint, including the charge that they fired the two employees for being a union members or participated in unfair labor practices. A spokesperson for the Grand Hyatt was not immediately available for comment.
`A prepared statement from Grand Hyatt Managing Director Tom Netting, as read by Scott Lane, director of sales and marketing: “The agreement that was finalized last week allows us to put this matter behind us and move forward to continue to work with our associates directly. We have admitted to no fault.”`
Still, union members were celebrating with pointy party hats, cake, and balloons just the same. Unite Here volunteer Chris Kutalik pledged to continue the effort to unionize not only the Grand Hyatt, but all of downtown's service workers.
“We're not just going to organize this hotel. Our plan is to organize every single hotel on the River Walk and bring wages up to a living wage standards â?¦ where people can have dignity on their job, rights on their job.”
Expect the union to try to hold another employee vote at the Hyatt in the near future. We expect Kutalik will be practice saying “Tenayuca” a few times between now and then.