The National Labor Relations Board said recently that it would stage a hearing on a complaint filed by a union representing Hyatt housekeepers who claim the hotel bypassed the union and forced them to use an electronic tracking system that features a cartoon dog wagging its tail as workers toil to complete micromanaged tasks.
A union representing a group of housekeepers at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood said this week that they’re delighted by the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision to hold a hearing next month on their complaint, which accuses the hotel of forcing workers to carry tracking devices that micromanage their workload.
The tracking system, which the union only called “Rex,” allegedly keeps an eye on each housekeeper’s location and assigns individual rooms one at a time, forcing workers to check in and check out as they finish each task. It’s not clear who made the software, but images provided by Unite Here Local 11 show a simplified interface in Spanish and the visage of a cartoon dog displayed on an Apple iPod Touch.
“We housekeepers feel this is a way to monitor us,” Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt Andaz housekeeper who’s given testimony to the NLRB in the case, told Raw Story. “We don’t need the additional stress. The symbol they use for the housekeeper is a dog — a wagging dog. We’re not dogs… It’s not that we’re opposed to new technology, but we were working just fine with the old paper system… [which let us] do the rooms in any order we wanted.”
Neither Hyatt nor Apple responded to requests for comment on this story.
In a complaint filed with the NLRB, attorneys for Unite Here say the electronic tracking system was implemented in December 2011 with no prior warning, even though the workers are represented by a union that the hotel once recognized. The law requires that employers come to the negotiating table with union leaders when major changes to the workplace are afoot.
When that didn’t happen, the union filed an official complaint and began providing additional information, including testimony, about working conditions at the hotel. All Hyatt hotels have been facing a boycott launched in July, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women and others who say they don’t pay well enough or provide benefits to workers, most of them women who put in long hours to ensure the hotels are presentable for guests.
Working under similar conditions, the Hyatt Andaz housekeepers felt this new electronic tracking regime was a step too far, and say it makes them unnecessarily expend more energy by working less efficiently, adding up to a longer, more stressful, more physically demanding work day.
“We’re pushing a heavy cart that is always over 100 pounds down hallways all day,” Youngblood explained. “We push these carts on elevators to different floors. If the wagging dog tells me to go to room 810, I go there. Once you enter, you punch in a button that lets them know you’re starting. When you finish, you punch a button that tells you to go to the next room. Well, the system may tell me to go to 923 instead of staying on the 8th floor and doing the rooms on that floor and not wasting time [waiting for the elevators].”
“These housekeepers are hard working and loyal,” Youngblood went on. “And now you’re going to track us? And use a symbol of a dog to track us? And not even discuss it with the union first? We’ve been working for the hotel for years, so, what’s the problem? I’m pretty good at reading between the lines, and I think they just don’t trust us… Hyatt should just grow up.”
The NLRB hearing is set for November 26, although Hyatt’s attorneys still have the opportunity to request a delay.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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