Unite Here Local 1, a union representing some 170 Park Hyatt Chicago hotel workers who have been without a contract for nearly two years, announced Thursday that they filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the Hyatt for turning heat lamps on protesters during a demonstration last Thursday.
The complaint alleges that ten heat lamps in the awning above the hotel's front entrance were turned on the striking workers early during the protest and were left on for about an hour on a day when the city's heat index topped 100 degrees. The union claimed the Hyatt "assaulted the employees and tried to fry them by shining heat lamps on them in the middle of what was already a hot, humid day" in a statement.
"They put the heat lamps on us, like we were nothing," said one of the striking workers in a statement. "If the heat didn’t kill us, the heat lamps would."
(Scroll down to watch video taken at last Thursday's Hyatt protest in Chicago.)
In response, the Hyatt appears to have filed their own charges against the union -- federal labor practice charges "for unlawful picketing in addition to the existing charges its refusal to negotiate in good faith," the Chicago Tribune reports.
"If Unite Here leaders were serious about completing these negotiations, they would have accepted our highly competitive offers that would provide Hyatt associates with higher hourly wages, Hyatt-paid family health care coverage and enhanced retirement contributions," a hotel spokesman said in a statement, according to the Tribune. "Instead, Unite Here continues to prioritize its growth in other markets above the interests of its members in Chicago."
In response to the heat lamp incident, a Hyatt spokeswoman told Huff Post Chicago last week that the hotel had turned off the heat lamps "as soon as the fact came to our attention" and that the hotel offered water and "other relief" to guests and employees gathered in front of the hotel.
In an apology the hotel issued late Friday, the hotel said "the decision to turn on the heaters was made by a manager. It was clearly a decision that was not in line with our values or with our corporate policies."
The Park Hyatt Chicago protest last week coincided with protests that took place at Hyatt hotels in nine other cities throughout the country, including a demonstration in San Francisco where 80 people were arrested and another in Cambridge, Mass., where 35 were arrested.
The Chicago union previously launched a one-day protest in June against the Hyatt. The union argues that Hyatt housekeepers have been abused and that management has not adequately addressed the workers' concerns about their high workloads and fears of subcontractors being hired in their place.
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