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Lorena and Martha Reyes were fired from their jobs as Hyatt housekeepers after they objected to pictures with their heads pasted on bikini-clad bodies.
President Obama's nomination of Hyatt heir Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary is drawing protest from UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union. The union has been leading a boycott of Hyatt, but hadn't immediately opposed Pritzker's nomination; however, according to the New York Daily News, D Taylor, the union's president, said that:
His opposition was spurred by his just learning that the Senate Commerce Committee was moving up its confirmation hearing for Pritzker.
The union had been led to understand that hearing would take place perhaps well after the Memorial Day weekend. But the surprise decision to move up the hearing forced the union's hand.
UNITE HERE is staging a protest in Chicago Monday afternoon. The union's quick move will push other unions, and the AFL-CIO, to consider their positions. Hyatt's poor labor practices—including replacing longtime housekeepers in Boston and Cambridge with low-wage temps—are of particular relevance to hotel workers; as activist Hyatt housekeeper Cathy Youngblood said, "Under Pritzker’s direction, Hyatt has led the hotel industry in a race to the bottom by aggressively subcontracting out career hotel jobs to minimum wage temps. This is not the model that will lead our country to a bright economic future."
But even beyond Hyatt's array of labor issues, there's a lot for unions, and progressives more generally, to dislike about Pritzker. As a member of the Chicago school board and as a donor, she's pushed anti-teacher education policies. She was on the board of a bank that did a big business in subprime mortgages and then collapsed. And her family makes enough use of offshore accounts that Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, of all people, kind of has a point when he says "It isn’t just about her or the offshore stuff, it’s about the fact that the president made a big deal out of Romney’s offshore accounts." The president was right to make a big deal out of Mitt Romney's offshore accounts. But the problem with Pritzker is not because Grassley and other Republicans are looking for excuses. Rather, it's precisely because the president was right about the problems with Romney's offshore accounts that his nomination of Pritzker should raise eyebrows among his supporters.