Citing “the calling of their faith traditions to do justice for the oppressed,” Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy will join employees striking at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago on Wednesday, according to a press release from the worker’s rights advocacy organization Arise Chicago.
"No faith tradition would ever suggest that people should live in poverty, and the labor movement is the best anti-poverty measure that we have in this country," Rev. C.J. Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago, told HuffPost Chicago. "Ninety eight percent of workers are participating in this strike. I think as religious leaders we're humbled by their commitment, and the very least we could do is stand beside them."
Chicago Hyatt workers have joined thousands striking in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu in an ongoing demonstration against the hotel chain, which hasn’t renegotiated contracts since Aug. 31, 2009 and has racked up 15 OSHA citations.
Henry Tamarin, president of Unite Here Local 1, the union representing the workers, called the chain “one of the most abusive hotels in their treatment of subcontracting” and cited poor working conditions as the Chicago protests grew last week.
The Chicago picket line has been particularly dramatic, with one Chicago location turning heat lamps on protesters during a particularly hot day in July, an act the hotel has since apologized for.
Hyatt representatives argue that the contracts offered by their hotel are virtually identical to ones approved by Unite Here-affiliated workers at other hotel chains.
"The only reason the union has taken to the streets instead of staying at the bargaining table and securing raises for our hardworking associates here is that they are focused on organizing non-union hotels in other markets," a spokeswoman told HuffPo Chicago. "This apparently is just union politics at its worst."
The religious leaders will lead an interfaith prayer service featuring songs and short sermons at the Loop picket line beginning at 11 a.m.
"When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and said 'Get my people out of those exploitive work conditions,' I believe God forever linked faith and work together," Hawking said. “We're here today to pray that hearts will be softened and minds will be opened and God's justice will prevail for the workers at Hyatt."