Hyatt apologizes for turning heatlamps on Chicago picketers

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 22, 2011 12:38 PM
Hyatt apologizes for turning heatlamps on Chicago picketers

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hyatt hotels apologized Friday for an incident in which heat lamps were turned on above workers on strike at a Chicago hotel, when the heat index was already 90 degrees.

"Hyatt regrets the events that occurred at Park Hyatt Chicago and apologizes to everyone who was impacted by them," the Chicago-based hotel company said in a statement.

The daylong strike started at 7 a.m. Thursday morning, which is when heat lamps intended to warm the outdoor area during winter were switched on and remained on for about an hour, said Annemarie Strassel, spokeswoman for United Here Local 1, which represents the hotel workers.

The workers have been without a contract for almost two years, Strassel said. Two issues holding up negotiations are working conditions for housekeepers and the company's replacement of long-term employees with temporary workers at lower rates of pay.

Hyatt said that 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 statement said. Hyatt said this was an "isolated incident" and would not be repeated.

It was not immediately known whether the manager was being disciplined.

The temperature at 7 a.m. in Chicago Thursday was 83 degrees, with a heat index of 90, according to the National Weather Service.

(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Greg McCune)