Job Loss Coda: Boston Hyatt Workers Fade Away

April 2nd, 2010 by

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.