The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is scheduled to violate the worker-called boycott of the Grand Hyatt Seattle and the Hyatt at Olive 8 for years to come. SCAA has done excellent work around fair trade issues globally, but the organization may have a blind spot to the working people in their own backyard.
Fair Trade USA is not staying at the boycotted Seattle Hyatts, and Equal Exchange has already sent SCAA a letter encouraging them to honor the boycott. The Washington Fair Trade Coalition also endorsed the boycott.
SCAA will bring 10,000 visitors to Seattle nearly every year until 2021–one of the biggest conventions in the city, giving it an enormous amount of consumer power.
Executive Director Ric Rhinehart and the SCAA board of directors have received multiple voicemails, letters, and emails since August 2013. Some board members have even requested not to receive any further information about workers’ rights violations at their Symposium hotels, despite the SCAA’s position on Fair Trade Position stating a commitment to “consciousness of social issues.”
Housekeeper Min Yi Li at the Hyatt at Olive 8 reports cleaning with nothing but a rag. Workers at these hotels have no job security, and some have reported an increase in outsourcing in recent years, a precedent that threatens full time jobs.
SCAA updated its Fair Trade position statement in 2008, stating a commitment to “consciousness of social issues.” The statement outlines the creation of a Fair Trade Task Force in 2000, but nothing about that task force can be readily found on their website. The organization’s bylaws also outline a “Restriction against profit and activity inconsistent with the public interest,” although “public interest” is not defined in the bylaws.
To date, multiple organizations have moved events out of the boycotted Seattle Hyatts in order to support workers, including the non-profit Low Income Housing Institute and API Chaya, a women’s shelter.
The boycott has also been endorsed by Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler, the Washington State Democratic Party and King County Democratic Party, the Washington State Labor Council and King County Labor Council, and twenty-one state legislators. The entire Seattle City Council sent a letter to the Hyatt’s owner, Mr. Richard Hedreen, expressing support for workers’ rights.