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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hyatt Hotels Illegally Enrolled in E-Verify to Track Undocumented Workers, Labor Agency Claims

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM

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San Francisco's Hyatt Hotels and the labor unions are once again bickering about best practices. Back in July, if you'll remember, hotel workers picketed outside the Grand Hyatt Union Square, protesting difficult working conditions and calling for a boycott of the chain.

This time, the dispute is over Hyatt's use of the politically charged E-Verify program, which allows employers to electronically check new hires' Social Security numbers, to help determine their immigration status. Both the Grand Hyatt in Union Square and the Hyatt Regency along the Embarcadero implemented the system.

The National Labor Relations Board, though, claims that Hyatt had no legal grounds to implement the program without first negotiating this change with the workers' union. As a result, the government agency has ordered Hyatt to end its enrollment in E-Verify, which is run through the Department of Homeland Security.

E-Verify has grown popular among those seeking to make life in America less appealing for undocumented immigrants. Throughout the GOP primary debate season, candidates lauded E-Verify -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has promised to establish a national E-Verify system if elected. The program is tied to the larger concept of "self-deportation," which is pretty much a euphemism for "make life in America so shitty for undocumented immigrants that they'll rather return to their third-world homeland than stay here."

Four states -- Arizona, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina -- have passed laws mandating that all employers use E-Verify. Fourteen others have required the program for government agencies, state contractors, or both.

California is one of two states to pass laws limiting the use of E-Verify -- last October, the state legislature passed a bill prohibiting state municipalities from requiring the program. Illinois went even further, barring all state companies from enrolling in the program "until the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases are able to make a determination on 99 percent of the tentative nonconfirmation notices issued to employers within three days."

The two San Francisco Hyatt branches informed workers in April that the hotel chain had enrolled in the program. Since then, the NLRB filed a complaint against Hyatt, which will have a chance to defend its decision at a hearing scheduled for late October.

For months now, labor groups have accused Hyatt of overworking employees, unfairly firing workers, and turning on heat lamps on protesters in the middle of summer. A bevy of union and advocacy groups, including the NFL Player's Association, have endorsed the boycott.

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Albert Samaha

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