My name is Victoria Guillen. I am a dishwasher at the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Francisco. My boss, David Nadelman, wrote an op-ed Aug. 12 claiming that my union, Unite Here Local 2, is holding me and my co-workers hostage by refusing to sign a contract we don’t want. If that were true, it would be an injustice. But what he said was not true. The real injustice is how Hyatt treats its workers. I know about this injustice because I experienced it myself.
In 2009, I was pregnant. Having a child is a beautiful and joyous thing. But when I was pregnant, the managers at the Hyatt acted like it was wrong. It was a difficult, high-risk pregnancy, and on my doctor’s orders I had to take a long leave of absence. A month before my due date, Hyatt told me I had used up all of my medical leave, and if I didn’t return to work three days after my due date, they did not want me back at all. The Hyatt managers refused to understand that I could not return to work so soon. They refused to have any compassion. When I left my meeting with the managers, I was so upset I had a debilitating headache and ended up being hospitalized.
My daughter, Cielo, was born by Cesarean section, and she’s now a healthy and happy toddler. I did not return to work three days after the operation; no one could have.
It took months of my life and a huge effort by my co-workers to reverse the wrong that Hyatt did to me. My co-workers signed a petition and passed out leaflets to customers. Ultimately, Hyatt gave in and I was allowed to return to my job.
Hyatt’s treatment of me was unjust and wrong, but it’s no different than how Hyatt treats its other workers around the country. A few weeks ago, a Hyatt manager turned heat lamps on Chicago workers who were on strike, in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired 100 housekeepers after making them train their own replacements — temporary workers making minimum wage with no benefits. Those housekeepers were women like me who were just trying to do their jobs and raise their families, but Hyatt put them out on the street like they were trash.
If my co-workers and I weren’t organized in a union, if we didn’t have the right to stand up for each other, I would probably still be out on the street.
While Mr. Nadelman’s false accusations ran in the San Francisco Examiner, I walked the picket line at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero with Cielo, her older sister and my mother, as 750 hotel workers marched in protest of Hyatt’s abuse.
I love this country. In America, anyone can raise her voice, speak out and protest. I am going to keep protesting until workers at non-union Hyatts have a fair process to decide for themselves if they want to join a union. My silence can’t be bought with promises of back pay.
Victoria Guillen is an employee at the Grand Hyatt hotel and a member of Unite Here Local 2.