Thursday, September 17, 2009
I woke up this morning and checked my Twitter feed (@mattfrank if you would like to follow) and came across this story on the Boston Hyatt's laying off their workers so they could hire people to do their jobs for half the pay. What is even worse with the story in the Globe was that the workers were asked to train their replacements having been told they were training temporary workers who would work during vacation periods and when the work load required more workers, they were "fill ins". It turns out they were replacements and the workers had unwittingly saved Hyatt a fortune by training these new workers for the hotel before receiving their pink slips. As a City Councilor in Chelsea I am sure that many of these workers could have been residents of my city commuting to Hyatt for job with a reasonable pay.
I must have had a psychic connection today because in short order I found out some of the people and organizations I respect most had come out in support of these workers. Boston City Council President Mike Ross was on Twitter pushing the event and spoke, Congressman Capuano was in attendance and the Teamsters apparently showed up in full force. I have yet to meet Mike Ross but from what I read and hear he seems like a class act who genuinely cares about people. I actually sat in for a few minutes on a panel he was giving at State Convention that the Young Democrats helped organize and was impressed. I have always liked Congressman, and with any luck future Senator, Capuano and was very happy to see him standing up for the workers. What I like about Congressman Capuano is that he stands up for what he believes in, it does not matter if he is the Selectman, Mayor, Congressman or running for Senate he will do what he thinks is right.
Finally there are the unions that organized the event and those that showed up. Teamsters Local 25 did not organize the event but I recognized them instantly from the pictures I saw online. Local 25 is my fathers union, I have had the pleasure of being under their protective umbrella in the past. When I was younger my father job hopped, something that continued for quite a few years, which is not uncommon among many in the workforce. Then he got a job, a union job, that he has held for a very long time (he has moved around within the organization but has stayed put.) Even through the eyes of a kid I could see the differences. For starters we were eligible for eye glasses with the healthplan which meant we were able to get them replaced more often. There was better medical care, dental care and they all extended through to children until they leave college. My father seemed happier, workers stayed in their jobs longer which I would imagine makes it easier on management in a way if workers are not coming and going so fast. On a regular basis the union sponsors a blood drive and on one occasion I visited with my father (after I was 18 of course) and we even made it into the Union newsletter which may still be one of the widest circulated photos of me around. I realize unions have their problems but what I've seen from Local 25 has convinced me that workers in most unprotected fields need some sort of union coverage.
Getting back to the workers who were layed off from the Hyatt... They were not part of a union and never have been. The unions decided to get involved themselves. On one hand it is a kind gesture, defending workers. On the other hand it is self preservation, after all if Hyatt manages to get away with this the practice could spread to unionized hotels and other unionized fields. This is about more then just these workers, a line must be drawn to stop the spread of this practice to other companies.
The new employees will not receive benefits or health insurance. These laid off workers are now going to get some sort of government help. If that was not bad enough these new imported workers make so little that they too will be qualified for government assistance in some form. We are now responsible for the OLD and the NEW workers in this deal. How is this fair? Is Hyatt really in that much trouble? If you look at the numbers, I do not think so.
This has happened before. If you have been to the doctors recently chances are some operator in India knows your whole medical history from the medical transcription service your doctor probably uses, being carried across multiple countries by wire. Try getting a local on the phone when you call any major help line. Tax companies are now working on wiring up offices in other countries to process your tax return. Now when you check into a hotel someone making minimum wage with no real connection to the hotel is going to be alone with your stuff while your gone. If you had a hard time trusting the cleaning crew BEFORE wait until you meet the new crew who doesn't know where the pool is and who turn over every 3 months.
Hyatt is what is wrong with this country. By taking these people out of the work force and slashing their pay they are reducing the overall economy so they can pad their own pockets. Most other major hotel chains have come out against the practice and Hyatt is having a rough time publicity wise out on Twitter and other services. It is important that we keep on this company to show them this is not OK and will not be tolerated by the American consumer. What they did was legal... that does not make it right.
Boycott, boycott, boycott