April 2, 2010

Job Loss Coda: Boston Hyatt Workers Fade Away

We have blogged the sad tale of housekeepers at the Hyatt Regency Boston, who were fired and replaced by low wage workers hired by an outsourcing firm. The workers unknowingly trained their replacements in their final months on the job.

Katie Johnston Chace of the Boston Globe has done a follow up on the 98 laid off workers. It's a sad story of broken dreams and piling debts. Sixty of the workers have been unable to find work.

As Northeastern labor economist Andy Sum puts it: "At the low end of the ladder, it's not only that the unemployment rate is high, but that the number of applicants for every job is extraordinarily high."

At the time of the firings, there was a lot of bad publicity for Hyatt. The hotel workers union estimates a loss of $3.7 million in revenues. Fighting back, Hyatt says that the job restructuring was the result of "challenging economic conditions.'' As we pointed out in a previous blog, the hotel might have saved a lot of money simply by improving the safety and training of housekeepers; their injury rates - and associated costs - were double that of other major chains.

Business as Usual
Hyatt spokeswoman Amy Patti said it was interesting the union would "boast about actions they have taken to drive dollars away from Boston and put additional jobs at risk in this difficult economy.''

Well, Amy, sort of. The union wants people to keep on spending in Boston, just at other hotels. They might start with the Boston Park Plaza, which has hired four of the former Hyatt workers into housekeeping jobs with full wages and benefits. When introduced to the team, their new co-workers burst into applause.

That's a nice coda for 4 percent of the Hyatt workers. For the remainder, no applause and, for the moment, little hope. It's like the end of Tchaikovsky's Symphony Number 6 ("Pathetique"), which after much drama simply fades away into silence at the end. Hyatt knew they would take a hit at the time of the firings. They also knew that memory spans are short and that business would return to normal in a few months. Throw out a few bargain rates and customers will come surging back. It's the American way and it works like a charm.

| 5 Comments

5 Comments

Jon:

"Throw out a few bargain rates and customers will come surging back. It's the American way and it works like a charm."

I think you underestimate a lot of people. I know the housekeeping staff and all their families will think long and hard before ever staying at a Hyatt again.

I have not bought a Firestone tire in 28 years after they screwed me over. I in fact refused to by a new car until the company replaced the tires once. I told the story of why over and over and convinced many people not to buy Firestone tires. I don't tell the story much since Toyo gought them but over the years it cost them thousands of dollars of sales.

I won't use an American Express product regardless of how much it puts me out. I will walk out of a bank and go elsewhere to avoid buying American Express Travelers Checks. I won't carry their cards and steer my clients to other cards for business purposes. When my oldest daughter died of Cancer they were the only creditor I had that would not work with me. They can rot in hell.

In 1985 a Pitney Bowes representative who was not doing her job tried to go around me and make trouble with my Boss. I tell the story to every Pitney Bowes rep that calls to explain why I would not use a Pitney Bowes product if you gave it to me.

I can hold a grudge. The housekeepers and others involved will also. There was a time I worked as a banquet waiter for a chain hotel. I now own several companies and if I say no one stay at a particular brand of hotel on company business, no one stays there. If I say everyone is going to fly anything except Delta that is what happens. What goes around comes around. You may not see it but I for one believe it happens.

Charles

Jon,
Thanks. Your compassion is refreshing. Please keep the light on...

Although most HR professionals decry unions, they will be the first to tell you that only by treating employees as valuable assets and providing benefits, training, a safe workplace and respect can businesses stay away from union encroachment. It's the old saw, "Treat people they way you want to be treated" that still works. Unfortunately, given the recent huge labor pool, many of whom have been unemployed now for months or years, and the trend toward outsourcing, it may be years (if ever) before Americans can find jobs that will pay a living wage.

It seems a shame, but is certainly a sign of the times. Anything that adds another layer of costs that cuts into corporate profits will be removed if at all possible. It seems like unions would be in the crosshairs more and more.

I saw something on NECN about the Hyatt boycott just recently, and again in the Globe. Also the Cambridge City Council passed a resolution against the Hyatt.

So while I don't think the boycott is top of mind for most Bostonians, I don't think we've forgotten either.

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on April 2, 2010 10:26 AM.

Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news briefs was the previous entry in this blog.

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