Belabored Podcast #4: “Talk To Someone Like Me”

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On the fourth episode of Belabored, Sarah and Josh discuss the past week’s labor news, from restaurant workers striking over wage theft in Philly, to protests over the deadly factory building collapse in Bangladesh. Then they interview Hyatt hotel housekeeper Cathy Youngblood, a leader in the hospitality union UNITE HERE (full disclosure: Josh’s former employer), about labor’s battle with the hotel giant, Obama’s choice of a Hyatt heir to run the Commerce Department, and her “Someone Like Me” campaign calling for a worker to be added to Hyatt’s board. Excerpts from that interview are below, followed by links to some of the articles they discuss.

 

“Talk To Someone Like Me”: an interview with Cathy Youngblood

Cathy Youngblood on why she wants to join Hyatt’s Board of Directors:

I really think that the board members, and of course their executives right under them, do not know what actually goes on in the hotel. So this would be an education on both our parts. They would learn from me and I would learn from them…they say that we are Hyatt family…Well, don’t keep closing the door on family.

On hotel housekeeping work:

In the hotel we are first responders…We’re treated like we’re invisible, but we’re really not…housekeeping work is extremely fast-paced. This is not the kind of work you do in your home, OK? You can have anywhere from thirteen to twenty-eight rooms [per day] depending on which Hyatt you’re working for. It’s very hard, it’s very heavy. By the time you finish, you’re drained with sweat, I mean all of your clothes are drained with sweat…All of the housekeepers are in pain every day…and then you injure yourself…

In housekeeping, I do things like push a linen cart over carpeted hallways, and it weighs 120 pounds of more…By the time I’m on my sixth room I have lower back pain—this is very common …Sometimes when I do the bathroom, in order to get it really clean, I do use a toothbrush to reach between the tiles…It’s very detailed work…[We have] a 100 point inspection sheet…We have to pass this by 94 percent every day… We are the ones who keep the guests coming back and a lot of people don’t understand what it is that we do.

On Hyatt heir and board member Penny Pritker’s (then rumored, since official) nomination as Obama Commerce Secretary:

If she is appointed and accepted as Secretary of Commerce, well, that’s a good thing and I wish her all the best. But I do wish that she would sit down and talk to me. I think she could learn a lot. Of course I could learn a lot from her…I wish her the best, but oh my! Her and the rest of the board, wouldn’t it be just dandy if they could sit down with me and understand what the problem is? Especially before she exits the board, if that’s the case.

On the progress of UNITE HERE’s multi-year struggle with Hyatt:

We’re very far apart on some issues…I think that we’re winning. And I think it’s a process of, we’re wearing Hyatt down with the truth. I see us winning everything that we’re asking for…I have not given up the fight on getting fitted sheets and better tools…There are a lot of instances where if they would just sit down and talk to someone like me, you know that would really help…

We’re going to settle for what we need to make our jobs safer. We’re going to settle for what we want…Hyatt is looked upon as the industry leader. People are looking to Hyatt…Hyatt’s business model, as far as I am concerned, needs to change.

For much more, check out episode four.

 

Links to Follow Along At Home

Sarah on Hyatt’s use of iPods to monitor housekeepers’ productivity.

Josh on Hyatt housekeepers who charge they were fired for taking down photos of themselves.

Sarah on May Day 2013.

Josh on Walmart’s responsibility for November’s deadly factory fire in Bangladesh.

 

Stories We Wish We’d Written

Esther Wang, “As Wal-Mart Swallows China’s Economy, Workers Fight Back” (The American Prospect)

Nicole Aschoff, “Imported From Detroit” (Jacobin)

 

Subscribe to the Belabored RSS feed here. Subscribe and rate on iTunes here. Tweet at @dissentmag with #belabored to share your thoughts, or join the conversation on Facebook. Belabored is produced by Natasha Lewis.