Gathering for convention, religious scholars see labor issues as more than academic
By Bridget Doyle, Chicago Tribune reporter
November 15, 2012
Some religious scholars plan to spotlight the issue of fair labor this weekend in Chicago by boycotting the Hyatt hotel chain.
The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature's joint conference at McCormick Place, which is expected to attract several thousand scholars to the city, booked space in the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and the Hyatt Regency Chicago, but some participants say they will avoid the hotels based on teachings rooted in Scripture.
Hyatt has been under fire since labor contracts between the hotel chain and workers expired in August 2009 and Hyatt started replacing some nonunion housekeeping staff with subcontracted workers who don't get health insurance. Critics say these replacements clean an exorbitant number of rooms per day and face a high injury rate compared with industry standards.
"The Hyatt family is an important part of the fabric of philanthropy in Chicago. But it is disturbing indeed they have such a terrible record on labor issues," said Laurie Zoloth, a humanities and bioethics professor at Northwestern University who also serves on AAR's board. "They refuse to give a decent contract so people can work and also have a decent life."