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The Pritzker family owns the majority of stock in Hyatt Hotels and is the richest family in Chicago and the fifth richest family in the United States. But not only does Hyatt have an abysmal record on workers rights, with high injury rates and abusive firings in several cities, the Pritzkers apparently specialize in tax appeals on their luxury homes. Members of the family have filed at least 70 appeals since 2003 to lower the value assessments of their homes and pay less in property taxes. That's cost the city of Chicago an estimated $344,000.

All of this would make some sense if we were talking about the Walmart Waltons. But Penny Pritzker is Barack Obama's national finance chair and likes to tout her various philanthropic activities, especially her involvement in Chicago's schools. What does it say that someone who claims to care about education yet works constantly to reduce the taxes she pays that will support local schools, whose company was cited by the government for workplace safety and health violations 18 times at 11 hotels in 2011, uses subcontractors to further exploit workers, and had the highest housekeeper injury rate of five hotel chains in a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine is influential in the political party that's supposed to be better for workers?

Similarly, I've written about Daniel Straus, the nursing home chain owner who locked out his workers, demanding they accept a pension freeze and cuts to sick days and holidays and overtime, pay up to $7,300 for family health coverage, and give up guaranteed hours and stable scheduling—all while Straus was endowing an "Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice" in his family's name at New York University.

This week, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the nursing home chain, HealthBridge, saying that it "engaged in a pattern of bad faith bargaining and unlawfully locked out the unionized employees at one of its homes" and noting that this "is the fourth complaint issued against the employer by the NLRB Hartford Regional Office involving conduct that occurred over the past two years." The complaint will go to trial in May if no settlement is reached.

(Continue reading below the fold)

  • Mac McClelland went undercover working in a massive warehouse to report on the high price of free shipping:
    Amalgamated has estimated that we pickers speed-walk an average of 12 miles a day on cold concrete, and the twinge in my legs blurs into the heavy soreness in my feet that complements the pinch in my hips when I crouch to the floor—the pickers' shelving runs from the floor to seven feet high or so—to retrieve an iPad protective case. iPad anti-glare protector. iPad one-hand grip-holder device. [...] I've started cringing every time my scanner shows a code that means the item I need to pick is on the ground, which, in the course of a 10.5-hour shift—much less the mandatory 12-hour shifts everyone is slated to start working next week—is literally hundreds of times a day. "How has OSHA signed off on this?" I've taken to muttering to myself. "Has OSHA signed off on this?" ("The thing about ergonomics," OSHA says when I call them later to ask, "is that OSHA doesn't have a standard. Best practices. But no laws.")
  • The AFL-CIO has a snazzy new website. Looking at a video featured on the site, all I can say is I'm so afraid of heights I probably couldn't even watch the full-screen version of this:
  • Related, as part of the AFL-CIO's Work Connects Us All campaign, Working America invited Pittsburghers to write thank-you notes to give to the workers they interact with during the day, like fast food workers who serve them lunch.
  • Despite President Obama's efforts and those of the staff of experts he's put in charge of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there's a lot the agency still can't do. Three guesses why.
  • Bryce Covert asks One mancession later, are women really victors in the new economy?
  • Steelworkers President Leo Gerard writes that Mother America always love manufacturing most.
  • Oh, hey, what do you know. Foreclosures on the top 1 percent move more slowly than those on everyone else.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Mar 02, 2012 at 04:24 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Workers (8+ / 0-)

    I do not understand why a Big Wig Wall Street dude thinks he should make more than the CNA that takes care of his aged Mother or Father, or the nurse that takes care of him when he is sick, or the teacher that teaches his children. Does he not care about his parents, his health or his children. These people make his life possible. the maids, cooks, landscapers, and such make his life possible. Why should they not earn a living wage? Why should they not have health care? Why are they better and more important then us?

    •  Because His Work's Worth Billions While Theirs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laura Clawson

      is worth thousands.

      You can't argue with THAT!!

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:08:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, you really can't... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        His wages are determined by a market. Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it. His work generates things people will spend more for, and he gets a big slice of the wealth he produces.

        •  Guess what I am willing to pay for (5+ / 0-)

          Wall Street "services"? A big fat goose egg.
          There is no there there.

          In fact their "services" are in large part a disservice to society, as there is nothing that can be seen, felt, heard or touched, and the money extracted by Wall Street is a justification for much of the wreckage that has been wrought upon this country in the name of short-term profits.

          Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

          by NoMoreLies on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:58:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  His service is allocating and mitigating risk (0+ / 0-)

            The people putting together corporate bond packages are generating a lot of the money big companies are using to essentially run. Without the guy who works out how Coke can issue half a billion dollars worth of bonds, how does Coke get the capital to create new factories to meet the chaning demand for more variety in flavors for beverages? The bond guy works out where the risk profile of this investment falls on the efficient frontier and how much people will pay for this investment. It's really a big deal, and very important to how big companies continue to operate and serve our basic needs as well as give us jobs.

            But you don't even have to believe that. That's what the big corporations think. They know those guys are critical to how they raise the capital to exist. They pay good money for their services. And to be honest, there's nothing you can do about that.

            Also, if you think the bulk of Wall Street is just about short-term profits, you're really mistaken.

            •  then what explains (2+ / 0-)

              explains the $3 trillion in cash held by the corporates? Seems to me that is plenty of money to finance their operations. Historically the economy has done far better with a much smaller role for the finanance sector at 5 to 10 percent of total profits in the private sector as opposed to 40% today. Let them shrink back to their historic roles in traditional heavily regulated banking and let the hedge funds and speculators be taxed heavily or better still regulated out of existence.

              Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

              by NoMoreLies on Sun Mar 04, 2012 at 09:45:26 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  It's not that simple. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dave925, Amber6541

          We pay rich people based on what they produce. If Bill Gates writes an operating system that creates billions in value, he gets to keep most of it.

          We pay poor people based on the lowest they will accept. If a nurse's aid saves you from DEATH you will not pay her $27k/year as long as there is another one who will work for $26.99k/yr.

          There are hundreds of thousands of Americans qualified to be CEOs, I-Bankers, Movie Stars, or Private Equity Fund Managers. Many would be better at the job and would do it for less.

          Class biases prevent us from forcing wage competition among the 1% -- but it is how economists tell us we should treat the 99%.

        •  How about if we apply that logic (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          to drug dealers and mobsters?

    •  because rich people are smarter, stronger, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      faster, and better looking than the rest of us.  :)

    •  Because all the little people let him. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Dave925

      A steeply progressive income tax prevents a dude like that from amassing huge fortunes and redistributes the income for the benefit of all.  It also reduces the incentive for those dudes to lie, cheat, and swindle their way to mega-million dollar incomes because they won't get to keep it.

    •  It is also (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      notrouble, Dave925

      awful that our preident who I will vote for because everyone running is much worse, should have Penny Pritzker as his finance chair. A woman who is a selfish
      mean spirited hotel baroness. I wish peoplw wpuld also let the president not get away with this crap. All of his people like Rahm and  Arne Duncan are awful!

      "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between" Oscar Wilde

      by angry hopeful liberal on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 07:00:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At A&P: Cut 7,500 jobs, get 750,000 bonus... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp, Gooserock, howabout

    Also this week:

    The ceo of A&P gets a $750,000 bonus after the company fired 7,500 people as part of its bankruptcy.

  •  The Koch Brothers are charitable too (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jarbyus, notrouble, Dave925, Amber6541

    New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell: $15 million

    M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: $25 million

    The Hospital for Special Surgery: $26 million

    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: $30 million

    Prostate Cancer Foundation: $41 million

    Deerfield Academy: $68 million

    Lincoln Center's NY State Theater: $100 million

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $139 million

    Link is here

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:06:58 PM PST

  •  the ultimate labor-abusing do-gooder has to be (5+ / 0-)

    Ralph Nader.  His PIRG canvassing network pays shit salaries for long hours and takes full advantage of people's naivete and idealism. I was only one of several people over the years who were fired for trying to unionize the canvass staff. I take shit like that pretty personally.

    The other canvassing networks (Citizen Action, Hudson Bay) were no better, either.

    •  I've always thought Ralph was a POS (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      notrouble, TexasTom, Dave925

      for the blatant fakery associated with the "Unsafe at Any Speed" video - nothing but a hit job on the Corvair, whch was as safe as anything out there at the time, and far safer than the VW Bug which he left alone because of its huge fan club. Then came his torpedoing of Al Gore. Now this. Ralph was a has been years ago; he just can't give up the spotlight, can he?

      Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

      by OrdinaryIowan on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:28:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, exactly right... (0+ / 0-)

      An acquaintance, Tim Shorrock, was also fired by Nader.

      Tim was approached by the Gore campaign to do a hit job on Nader, but Tim wouldn't do it. Tim felt, correctly so, that Gore was no prize himself, and the issue was labor rights, not Gore's election.

    •  Don't take a job canvassing if you're not (0+ / 0-)

      committed to the cause . Lot's of people do it for nothing.

    •  I'm assuming you've read Activism Inc. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dave925, Amber6541

      by Dana Fisher, but if not, worth a read.

      I worked (in the office, not the field) for Working America for nearly 3 years, and while canvassing is probably never the greatest work, that's an organization that pays canvassers a decent wage and tries to focus on promoting from the ranks.

      •  I have not read it, but (0+ / 0-)

        from what I see in a quick google search, I've already lived it.  ;)

        •  On some fronts (0+ / 0-)

          I found it disappointing.  I felt like there were several good books about that general issue and she wrote the least interesting one.  Still a worthwhile, interesting book, just not the world-shatterer I hoped for.

          •  some parts of canvassing have gotten better (0+ / 0-)

            One thing I know has happened is that the pay has been adjusted to insure that everyone gets at least minimum wage per hour no matter how many hours per week they work (one of the reasons the networks called us "salaried" was so they could keep us in the office nine or ten hours a day and not pay us any more per week) and no matter how much money they raise in a week (people who missed their weekly quota often ended up being paid less than minimum wage for even a 40-hour week).  That of course was not voluntary on the part of the canvass networks--it's because the networks lost a couple of Federal wage and standards actions.

  •  Philanthropy (7+ / 0-)

    as a form of control/corporate marketing.

    There's been writing on the subject, actually-- and the donors mentioned here are far from unique.  :(

  •  There are Republicans in Chicago? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, Dave925

    If a property owner in Chicago has an assessment lowered, wouldn't there be a Democrat in charge of the office issuing said lowered assessment?

  •  Penny Pritzker is also possible a source (0+ / 0-)
  •  The Golden Gate Bridge workers video is amazing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marjmar, greeseyparrot

    It reminded me of this video about workers who climb antenna towers.

    "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

    by rfall on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:36:07 PM PST

  •  Democratic rich look (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabbausaf, greeseyparrot, Dave925

    a hell of a lot like Republican rich, don't they???

    In case you didn't notice, the common word here is "rich"...

  •  I can tell you exactly what it means (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, Marjmar, Dave925
    What does it say that someone who claims to care about education yet works constantly to reduce the taxes she pays that will support local schools, whose company was cited by the government for workplace safety and health violations 18 times at 11 hotels in 2011, uses subcontractors to further exploit workers, and had the highest housekeeper injury rate of five hotel chains in a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine is influential in the political party that's supposed to be better for workers?
    Money talks.


  •  What's wrong with appealing property taxes? (4+ / 0-)

    Like all homeowners, the Pritzkers have the legal right to appeal their property taxes if they believe their assessment is too high.  I also own a house in Cook county and have appealed my property taxes (successfully) in the past.  Its a fairly common practice given the lack of uniformity/fairness in the assessment process.

    •  It's what I used to do for a living. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      apoptosis, Amber6541

      Very lucrative, very incestuous "cottage industry."

      But, you're absolutely right; property owners have the right and the lack of uniformity/fairness is an issue.  It's gotten a little bit better, but not much.

      "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." ~ Steven Biko

      by Marjmar on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 07:03:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you're a billionaire (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greeseyparrot, Dave925

      living in a multimillion dollar home and appealing to get your property taxes lowered to have the home assessed at a level lower than what you paid for the land and construction...yeah, it's legal, but you're an asshole.

      •  Perhaps, but... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        pretty much every homeowner in Cook county who bought before 2006 has seen their property values drop dramatically.  If I sold my house now, I'd probably realize a loss of about 30%.  I would hope that my home would be assessed by Cook county at a lower level than what I paid for it.  

  •  This is a very weak argument... (9+ / 0-)
    Members of the family have filed at least 70 appeals since 2003 to lower the value assessments of their homes and pay less in property taxes. That's cost the city of Chicago an estimated $344,000.
    Um, no. They don't just get to set the value of their homes. They request a hearing, in which they make an argument that their homes are overvalued by the city. The city itself reviews the argument and adjusts the home's value only if it agrees with the arguments being made.

    These appeals didn't cost the city of Chicago $344,000. The city agreed that it was overcharging members of the family $344,000, so it corrected the problem.

    When I first bought my house at $400k, it was valued at like $585k by the city. Did getting the city to lower the appraised value back to, you know, what I actually paid for it mean that I cheated the city out of $185k * the tax rate? No. It means the city didn't know how much my house was worth.

    •  I've yet to figure out the assessment process (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marjmar, Amber6541

      The process for assessing the value of property in Cook county is the most arcane and convoluted system I've ever seen.  I've the heard argument that the process is intentionally complicated in order to support the army of attorneys who rely on tax appeals for their livelihood.  

      Its definitely true that the Pritzkers can afford better attorneys than most of the rest of us.  Still everyone, rich and poor deserve to pay property tax under a fair, equitable, and transparent system, which currently does not exist in Cook county.

    •  First... (0+ / 0-)

      I'm sure you meant to say assessed value; not appraised value, which are very different things.

      Second, the Assessor does get recent sales information for every property, but going ahead and challenging the assessment was the right thing to do, because paper mistakes and/or digital mistakes are not unheard of.

      Third, most assessments are based on recent sales in the, your home may very well not have had it's recent sale recorded (properly) when the assessed value was determined; the townships are on a re-assessment schedule of every 3 yrs.

      Finally, and this is incredibly difficult for most people to understand...and I'm not say you are one of those is entirely possible for your home's value/assessed value to go down and your property tax bill to go up.  Because, govt. bodies levy dollar amounts and taxing authorities apportion each property owner's share based on assessed value, tax rates, etc. in order to meet the dollar amount levied.

      Cook County's property tax system is as cluster-y as any around...which is why the State "sticks it to us" with the annual equalizer.

      "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." ~ Steven Biko

      by Marjmar on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 07:16:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It'd be nice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nominalize, notrouble live long enough to see the "unfettered capitalists" get their asses handed to them on a platter by the Generations X and Y.

    If the bastards don't make the planet uninhabitable.

    I'll be dead by then, but hope rings eternal.

    Hope and death. Human constants.

    If liberals really "hated America" - We'd vote Republican

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:53:25 PM PST

  •  Everytime I attend a performance in Chicago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    swampyankee, melfunction

    Everytime I attend a performance at the Harris Theatre or the Goodman Theatre, I see that the Pritzkers are major supporters of the arts.

    Good on them for that; however, there are more important things than the arts.

    As one who as a child knew hunger and deprivation, I curse the Pritzkers to the extent that they do not take care of their worker bee employees.

    May God bless all working Americans.  May God damn any who would torture and suppress the well-being of our American workers.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

    by Randolph the red nosed reindeer on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 06:54:31 PM PST

  •  Sometimes, corporate greed is good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Part of my job entails unloading, counting and storing barrels of flammable liquids.

    Neither OSHA nor the local fire department had any problems with the way that my coworkers or I did this.

    But my employers' insurance company told my employer that they had to buy special cabinets to store these chemicals.

    Needless to say, the insurance company doesn't care about us.  But they don't want to pay because the building caught on fire.  These cabinets have the unintended consequence of keeping the employees safer.

    Even if Amazon has bullied its employees into not filing worker's comp cases; someone is going to slip through the cracks.  Or someone will be sent to an emergency room.  In either case, an insurance company (one of the few industries with the power to take on Amazon) will force Amazon to change.

  •  Akin to Lighbulb's diary series, the McClelland (0+ / 0-)

    article is an eye opener & provides food for thought:

    Still, most people really don't know how most internet goods get to them. The e-commerce specialist didn't even know, and she was in charge of choosing the 3PL for her midsize online-retail company. "These decisions are made at a business level and are based on cost," she says. "I never, ever thought about what they're like and how they treat people. Fulfillment centers want to keep clients blissfully ignorant of their conditions." If you called major clothing retailers, she ventured, and asked them "what it was like at the warehouse that ships their sweaters, no one at company headquarters would have any fucking clue."
    Thank you for this diary, Laura Clawson. Hopeful that many eyes will follow & read the links as well.  

    Because what is frightfully and painfully clear- this last sentence from the McClelland article:

    "We're all in the same boat," he said, after shaking my hand to welcome me aboard. "It's a really big boat." (emphasis mine)
  •  Pritzker family no longer owns Hyatt (0+ / 0-)

    It took about one minute to find the information on the internet.

    89% of the stock is owned by mutual funds or other institutional investors. No one individual owns more than 1% of the stock. Penny Pritzker is a Director, but not part of line management.

    This is a massive fail. Take this diary down, or simply convert it to a "Hyatt is bad" diary without bothering about the Pritzkers.

    •  I think you will find.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kaib

      ...that the ownership/management structure is a little more complicated than the stock holdings in Hyatt Hotel Corp as listed by Yahoo.

      I don't think anybody seriously doubts that Pritziker family is firmly in control and has the power to change the corp's labor policies if it wishes.

  •  The Pritzkers get their taxes reduced in Chicago (0+ / 0-)

    but I don't, even when my wealthier neighbors pay less tax for a larger, more fixed-up house than I have.
    It's rigged for the rich.

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