Monday, July 25, 2011

"You Can't Smoke Us Out!"

Last Thursday, workers at Hyatt hotels around the country picketed outside their places of work to demand provisions for job security and better conditions in their new contract. Unfortunately, some protestors had to deal with more than just the heat of a hot summer day.

Management at the Chicago Hyatt turned on the hotel's heat lamps at 7:00 am, blasting the workers with an amount of heat typically reserved for warming the sidewalk in the dead of winter. With temperatures already well into the 80s, the extra heat made conditions on the sidewalk almost unbearable for the striking workers. Nevertheless, they did withstand the heat, and continued their picket for the rest of the day, chanting "You can't smoke us out."

The courage of these workers in the face of deadly heat is astonishing, and truly commendable. However, what this incident says about corporate regard for worker safety and basic human dignity is a terrifying prospect to consider. Any institution that would assault its employees with hot lamps as a punitive action is an institution that poses a serious threat to workplace safety and human rights.

The relevance of Hyatt's transgressions is readily apparent here in Philadelphia, where the Hyatt also has a large presence. Hotels in Philadelphia are notoriously exploitative workplaces and pose some of the greatest opposition to the Earned Sick Time bill. You heard that right: hotels oppose legislation that would allow workers to care for themselves when sick and live with basic dignity. Not too surprising, coming from an employer that imperils its workers' lives in retaliation to a peaceful protest.

Mayor Nutter has recently vetoed the Earned Sick Time bill in Philadelphia, but City Council will have an opportunity to override his veto in September. We need to make sure that they do, and that this bill passes into law. The corporations may not be about to protect their workers, but we sure will!

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