Hotel Housekeepers Protest Mass Firing In Boston
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
NPR's business news starts with hotel housekeepers swept out of work.
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MONTAGNE: One of the country's biggest hotel chains recently fired all the cleaners in its Boston area hotels. Hyatt Hotels cited challenging economic conditions, but the workers aren't going quietly. Hundreds of them and their supporters demonstrated last night in front of Boston's downtown Hyatt Regency after reading about their layoffs and their replacements in the Boston Globe.
Phillip Martin has the details.
PHILLIP MARTIN: Over the summer, housekeepers at Hyatt Regency Hotels in the greater Boston area were told to train a group of temporary employees. But on August 31st the temps were hired permanently and those who trained them were sent packing. One of them was Lucine Williams(ph).
Ms. LUCINE WILLIAMS (Housekeeper): I was making 15.32 an hour.
MARTIN: Williams had cleaned rooms for Hyatt since age 19, but 21 years and 11 months later, she and about 100 other Hyatt housekeepers were escorted out the door by hotel security. For this immigrant from Barbados, it was the only job she'd ever known, and with it came badly needed health benefits.
Ms. WILLIAMS: I got a 13-year-old son. He has asthma. I don't know what going to happen when the insurance finish. All I keep thinking is what did we do that was so bad that they couldn't even give us a option, they couldn't even give us a chance.
MARTIN: Hospitality Staffing Solutions of Georgia, the contractor hired by Hyatt to replace Williams and other housekeepers, pays $8 an hour and does not provide benefits. The two companies have worked together for several years, but never on this scale. Hyatt issued a statement saying that the decision was prompted by the unprecedented economic environment and the need to adjust cost in response to continuing declines in revenue. Even so, some hospitality experts and union officials here thought the move highly unusual.
Ms. JANICE LOUX (President, Unite Here Local Union 26): Never in the history of the Boston hotels have we ever seen the complete outsourcing, contracting out of an entire housekeeping department, never.
MARTIN: Janice Loux, president of Unite Here Local Union 26, representing area hotel workers, says more protests are planned to urge the rehiring of the fired housekeepers. She believes that getting those jobs back can only happen if the controversy impacts Hyatt's bottom line.
The company reported an 18 percent drop in revenue in the first half of this year, but several guests walking into the Boston hotel said Hyatt should not make up for loss on the backs of its lowest-paid employees, and outsourcing housekeepers, they said, could affect their decision to stay here again.
For NPR News, I'm Phillip Martin in Boston.
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