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Hundreds attend rally for fired Hyatt housekeepers

Politicians urge boycott of the hotel

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / September 18, 2009

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Several hundred hotel workers and their supporters turned out yesterday for a raucous rally in front of the Hyatt Regency Boston for the 100 housekeepers who were fired by the hotel chain. Politicians called for businesses to boycott the Hyatt, and workers banged on drums, rattled detergent bottles filled with rocks, and chanted “Hyatt, shame on you’’ as they marched in front of the hotel with picket signs.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. laid off the entire housekeeping staffs at the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and Hyatt Harborside Hotel after the morning shift had ended on Aug. 31, citing challenging economic conditions, and immediately replaced them with workers from an out-of-state staffing firm. The housekeepers had been training those very workers, from Georgia’s Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who they were told would be filling in for vacations.

US Representative Michael Capuano and state Senator Anthony Galluccio called for a boycott of Hyatt. “Maybe they should have just taken the chocolates off the pillows, I don’t know,’’ Capuano told the people assembled on Avenue de Lafayette, near Downtown Crossing. “If we let them do this, another hotel will do it, and then another business, and on and on.’’

City Councilor Maureen Feeney told the crowd that tourism is one of the largest industries in Boston, adding, “Do you know who we have to thank for that? You.’’

Mayor Thomas M. Menino did not attend the rally, but in a statement, said: “The Hyatt made a crude business decision that will have devastating effects on real people who work hard everyday. My administration stands with these workers and will continue to fight for fair wages for all of our people.’’

In a statement issued yesterday, Hyatt Hotels Corp. said, “Due to the unprecedented economic environment, the Hyatt hotels in Boston -- like businesses all over America -- have had to make very difficult decisions to adjust costs in response to continuing declines in revenue. Unfortunately, these decisions have affected our associates at Boston-area properties. A restructuring of our housekeeping services included staff reductions that we deeply regret.’’

Several of the fired hotel workers spoke at the rally, including Serendu Kamara, a former Hyatt Harborside employee who is pregnant and has three children at home. “I gave everything I have for them,’’ she said.

Ritz-Carlton room service waiter Jose Sanchez, dressed in a black vest and striped tie, came to the rally during his break. “I think it’s disgusting what happened here,’’ said Sanchez, a union representative at the Ritz.

“It’s the height of arrogance and corporate greed,’’ said state Senator Marc Pacheco. “The assault on the most vulnerable target is an assault on all workers.’’

The rally was part of an outpouring of support for the housekeepers - from people offering financial assistance to others saying they will be boycotting the Hyatt - which came yesterday after The Boston Globe’s front-page story about the layoffs. Ronald Hiemann, the chief executive of Seajet in Chelsea, a shipping company specializing in Asian goods, said he would no longer recommend the Hyatt to business associates in town from overseas.

“Hyatt has been crossed off the list,’’ he wrote in an e-mail. Hiemann also sent a letter to the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade, which holds a regular event at the Hyatt Regency in Newport, R.I., asking the group to book elsewhere.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe. com.