Gov. Patrick says state will boycott Hyatt if it doesn't rehire workers
Governor Deval Patrick plans to direct state employees to boycott the Hyatt while conducting state business unless the hotel company rehires the housekeepers it fired, he said in a letter sent today to Hyatt chief executive Mark Hoplamazian.
"I understand first hand how difficult it is to manage through the current economic challenges without compounding the disruptions the times have caused," Patrick wrote. "But surely there is some way to retain the jobs for your housekeeping staffs, as other hotels have done, and to work with them to help the company meet its current challenges, rather than tossing them out unceremoniously to fend for themselves while the people they trained take their jobs at barely livable wages."
The three Boston area Hyatts -- the Hyatt Regency Boston, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and the Hyatt Harborside at Logan International Airport -- fired their 98 staff housekeepers on Aug. 31 and replaced them with $8-an-hour employees of the Georgia-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions. The staff housekeepers, some of whom had been cleaning rooms at the hotels for more than 20 years and made more than $15 an hour, said they had been asked to train some of these new employees over the past few years and were assured they would not be replacing them. The cleaning company and the Hyatt deny these claims.
The firings have prompted a public outcry against the hotel company. The union that represents Boston-area hotel workers organized a rally in front of the Hyatt Regency Boston last week and several local politicans and business owners have called for a boycott. The National Employment Lawyers Association cancelled its contract with the Hyatt Regency Boston after it heard the news and is searching for another Boston hotel to hold its October seminar.
Patrick called Hyatt's chief executive last week to express his concern over the outsourcing, and the two spoke again on Monday. Hoplamazian sent Patrick a letter over the weekend, and Patrick replied yesterday. "You must understand," he wrote, "that what has been imposed on these workers -- most of whom have worked hard, played by the rules, and invested their time and energy in your company's success -- is both upsetting in its own right and also the worst nightmare of every worker in today's weak economy."
Patrick called on Hoplamazian to reconsider the decision to replace the housekeepers, and if he doesn't, Patrick said he would tell state employees not to use the Hyatt. "This is not how I like to operate," Patrick concluded in the letter. "But the treatment of these workers appears to be so substandard that it leaves me no choice."
In a statement, Phil Stamm, general manager of Hyatt Regency Boston, said the chain "has been forced to make some very difficult decisions" and "regret whenever staff reductions are necessary.
"We are disappointed by the governor's decision to threaten a boycott of our hotels since it directly threatens the 600 associates who work in Hyatt properties and who live and work in Massachusetts at a time when businesses and individuals are cutting back on travel during the worst economic periods we have seen in decades," he wrote. "We do not understand why the governor is putting more Massachusetts jobs at risk instead of working with us to find jobs for employees affected by the realities of these unprecedented economic challenges."
In addition to the threatened boycott, Gov. Patrick also hosted a meeting last night with 30 fired Hyatt workers and union leaders. In the meeting, the workers gave tearful accounts of how they feel about Hyatt denying that they had trained their replacements. Gisela Romero, a former housekeeper at the Hyatt at Logan, said: "We are not liars, we trained the people."
After the meeting, Patrick responded to a media question about the state's staff reductions, saying: "We haven't had our workers training their replacements at a fraction of the wage rate."