Hyatt Hotels Corp. is in trouble in Boston, with labor protests and calls for boycotts from local authorities and individuals in response to Hyatt’s mass firing of 130 housekeepers from the three Hyatt hotels in Boston – the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and Hyatt Harborside Hotel.
On Aug 31, at the end of the day’s work, Hyatt simply kicked out the housekeeping staff – some of whom had been working for more than 20 years, and replaced them with out-of-state workers from Georgia based Hospitality Staffing Solutions.
As a result, not only are the fired workers fighting for their rights, but they also have support from organized labor (Unite Here – Local 26) in Boston, and local politicians – who have no wish to see local jobs in Boston outsourced to low cost workers from out-of-state. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the job cuts “fly in the face of what Boston is all about.”
Some people are offering financial assistance to the workers, while companies are saying they will no longer recommend Hyatt to their out-of-town business partners who need hotels while in Boston.
And the anger and coming together of interests against Hyatt resulted in a massive protest rally outside the Hyatt Regency in Boston, with hundreds of placard waving workers picketing it and telling guests to boycott the hotel.
Hyatt’s biggest mistake was to trick the fired employees into helping train their own replacements – Management told the workers the trainees would be used for filling in spots while employees were on vacation.
And then they put out this press statement – “We are providing the affected associates with assistance, including severance and outplacement counseling. Hyatt is committed to treating our employees with honesty and respect.”
Considering the sheer force of public anger, Hyatt will probably have to backtrack and rehire the fired employees – or provide a sizeable settlement. Not to mention the heavy PR damage caused by the nationwide negative publicity.
Update 1: Sept 18, 2009 - Hyatt is in a really serious mess now. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had a chat with Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian and asked him to reconsider Hyatt’s decision. He also made a veiled threat which implies that unless Hyatt backtracks, he could ask all state workers to stay away from Hyatt hotels. That would be a devastating blow for Hyatt.
If Hyatt does not sort this out by Monday, they’re going to be facing a nationwide boycott.
Update 2: Sept 19, 2009 – Statement from Hyatt – Denies that they tricked employees into training their replacements. Also denies that said replacements are from out-of-state. Hyatt says replacements are also living in Boston area, and also get benefits.
There’s now a Hyatt Boycott website – www.hyattboycott.com
Update 3: Sept 21, 2009 – Hyatt forms Taskforce to help fired employees – The taskforce will help in retraining and helping the 98 housekeepers who were let go find new jobs. Hyatt is also extending their healthcare benefits upto the end of the year. The benefits were slated to expire at the end of September.
Update 4: Sept 23, 2009 – Gov. Patrick wrote to Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian and threatened that state workers would boycott the Hyatt unless the workers were rehired. More updates on this here.
Update 5: Sept 24, 2009 – Boston Taxi Drivers Association – which represents 1,700 taxi drivers – are also boycotting the Hyatt and will refuse to service any Hyatt hotel in Boston. Also, Union activists in Boston have launched a ‘Save the Hyatt 100′ group on Facebook.
Update 6: Sept 25, 2009 – Unite Here has arranged for one of the fired housekeepers – Angela Norena – to fly to Chicago and personally appeal to Penny Pritzker. The Pritzker family owns Hyatt, and Penny Pritzker was the national finance chairman of President Obama’s campaign last year.