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Editorials and Opinions

Hyatt layoffs call for boycott

By Volume 49 Senior Editors
Published: September 2009

The Hyatt Hotels Corporation fired 98 housekeepers on August 31 from three of its Boston hotels, the Hyatt Regency Boston, and the Hyatt Harborside Hotel, and the Hyatt Regency Cambridge’€the traditional venue of South juniors’ annual semi-formal.

In late August, the Hyatt housekeepers were ordered to train employees from a subcontractor, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who would work for half their own hourly wage; they were assured that the cheaper laborers were only vacation fill-ins. A few days later, they were told to empty out their lockers so they could be cleaned.

Then, on the last day of the month, the Hyatt housekeeping staff was informed that it would be their last day working. Many of the laid-off workers had been working at the Hyatt for 15 years or more. Nevertheless, they lost their jobs to the lower-paid subcontracted workers they had trained.

Politicians, business owners, and citizens have responded with anger and disapproval, calling for a boycott of the hotel chain. Notably, the National Lawyers Association has canceled its contract with the Hyatt Regency Boston and is searching for another location for its October seminar, and a union representing about 1,700 Boston cab drivers has stated that it will boycott Hyatt hotels until they rehire the 98 housekeepers.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick publicly condemned the Hyatt’s layoffs, saying in a letter to Hyatt chief executive Mark Hoplamazian that “the manner in which these workers were discharged is so inconsistent with both the expressed values of the Hyatt organization and basic fairness, that [he does] not believe any other remedy than full reinstatement is adequate.

Governor Patrick stated on September 23 that he plans to direct state employees to boycott the hotel chain, which received an overwhelmingly positive public reaction.

Denebola applauds the governor for his firm stance against the injustice, especially in light of the hotel corporation’s response that the boycott would only endanger the jobs of 600 more Boston-area Hyatt employees.

The Hyatt hotels threw their housekeeping staff out without warning and replaced them with laborers working for barely livable wages. Even considering the weak economy, it was a callous and unjust way to deal with “declining revenues, which Hyatt public relations manager Katie Rackoff cited as the reason for the layoffs.

South students should consider whether they want their junior semi-formal to take place in a venue that exploits cheap outsourced labor at the expense of so many long-employed staff. Denebola encourages the South community to take a stand for the basic respect that all people, not just laborers, deserve.
Though it is important to recognize the unfairness of the gross wrong the Hyatt did its employees, the Hyatt corporation is not the only, nor will it be the last, large business that infringes on its workers’ rights. Action on the part of the general public, students included, is necessary to set a precedent and establish that such practices are not to be tolerated.

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