Is it Extortion or a Campaign Contribution? Penny Pritzker and the Trouble with SEIU/Obama Administrtion
As far back as 2007, Mr. Obama recognized that his relationship with Ms. Pritzker could be tricky; when he asked her to be his national finance chairwoman, he called labor leaders to alert them, they later said in interviews.
A standoff between labor and Hyatt hotels had been brewing for years over working conditions for housekeepers. By 2009, union officials decided to target Ms. Pritzker because of her ties to the president.
“We thought that a person who would spend so much time raising money for a person who cares about working people as much as Obama” would treat low-level workers better, said John Wilhelm of Unite, the group that has led the fight.
Henry Tamarin, a longtime organizer, helped create a devastating campaign against Ms. Pritzker, even though she was just one member of the family and organization. He hired an impersonator who walked the picket line handing out plastic coins and shouting “Get back to work! Penny needs her billions!” according to The Chicago Tribune.
In September, after Hyatt fired 100 housekeepers at nonunion hotels near Boston and replaced them with low-wage subcontractors, labor organizers flew a fired worker to confront Ms. Pritzker at a public appearance in Chicago. As she served on White House councils alongside Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, his organization released a video that cast her as a villainess who hurt rather than helped the economy.
Hyatt defends its labor practices, saying that the average tenure of its housekeepers is 12 years and that Unite has refused to settle.
“I feel a personal connection with the employees at the hotel company,” Ms. Pritzker said in the interview. “The union attacks — it hurts. I don’t like it. It should be an issue between Hyatt and the unions, not become something personal to me.”
The architects of Ms. Pritzker’s troubles are not strangers to the president. Mr. Obama benefited from Mr. Tamarin’s early endorsement in the Senate and presidential campaigns and walked a picket line with him at a non-Hyatt hotel in 2007. Mr. Tamarin’s son Nate works at the White House as a liaison to labor. Even as the elder Mr. Tamarin was waging his campaign against Ms. Pritzker, he sat at the president’s table at a White House state dinner.
Read more at the New York Times
image Hyatt Regency Chicago