Hesitant hopes for Hyatt

drawing of a hotel bellhop
Illustration by Phill Flanders (The Miami Herald, 1995)

As a commuting student obtaining my master’s degree in social work, I agree with Ms. Shipman that an on-site Hyatt hotel will bring many benefits to the CSUN community, students, family and friends. However, as a social worker, I cannot overlook the bigger social justice issue that such a hotel will create for the Northridge community: the residents that will likely fill back-of-the-house positions such as dishwashers, bus boys, housekeeping and the like.

While an intern program will be optimal for those students obtaining their degree in hospitality, it is likely these internships will not be in back-of-the-house positions. Before we endorse this hotel, we must think about the future of the workers who will staff this hotel.

Hospitality workers are notoriously overworked and underpaid. Only recently has attention been drawn to unsafe housekeeping workloads and living wages for housekeeping staff.

Only because of the #MeToo movement are we finally acknowledging the sexual harassment pandemic low-wage workers have been facing for years. In an industry predominantly staffed by immigrant women of color, the additional threat of immigration rights violations creates a dynamic where the hotel operator calls the shots, with little or no regard to the impact their decisions have on the workers’ rights and physical and mental wellbeing.

I’m not talking about random people. The folks who will staff the CSUN Hyatt are likely to be local residents, members from our community. We need to ensure that, if Hyatt builds a hotel on campus, that the voice and values of the CSUN community are not stripped away by lofty corporate greed. Instead, we need to create an environment where the workers feel supported and part of the community, where they are given fair workloads, living wages and a workplace free from threats and intimidation.

While Northridge boasts some of the best living conditions in the nation, the average cost of living in Northridge is almost 30 percent higher than the national average. With housing prices in Northridge at 135 percent to 157 percent higher than the national average, we need to ensure businesses are bringing jobs to Northridge that will guarantee our workers can support themselves and their families. This demands progressive development and business models that ensure workers are paid living wages, have access to affordable healthcare, are provided pension benefits, and have security from oppressive political agendas.

The CSUN campus is culturally diverse and outwardly supportive of all students regardless of immigration status, race, ethnicity or gender identity. To maintain this cultural diversity throughout our campus, we must insist that our campus hotel embraces this diversity by hiring and protecting workers from all races, ethnicities, gender identities and immigration statuses.

Yes, the campus Hyatt would be good for our school, but we need it to be great for our community, and ensure the future workers of this hotel, whether they are student interns or non-student workers, are treated with the dignity and respect that we, as Matadors, embrace. Before we jump on the Hyatt bandwagon, let’s make sure we think about how this hotel will impact our local residents, and ensure that this hotel is as good for them as we believe it will be for us.

Written by Sue Moravec