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Hyatt vigil
Candlelight vigil at the Hyatt Regency Boston, 2009.
(Hotel Workers Rising)
One of the very scummiest things Hyatt hotels has done to its workers—and there are more than a few—took place in Boston and Cambridge in 2009, to huge public outcry. Three Hyatts abruptly laid off their longtime housekeeping staff and outsourced their jobs to a subcontractor employing low-wage temps. To add insult to injury, the housekeepers had actually trained their replacements, immediately before learning they were being fired and replaced.

At the time, the manager of another hotel suggested this was a bad move from a customer service perspective:

“We would not [outsource housekeepers] because we want to tightly control the guest experience here and the cleanliness,’’ said managing director Jim Treadway.

Now, the city of Cambridge is taking the same view, and is taking steps to put some force behind it. In a vote more than a year in the making, the Cambridge License Commission has voted to impose a regulation prohibiting hotels from contracting out certain hotel jobs, specifically the ones that have access to guest rooms—a category that should include housekeepers. This move comes not from a labor standpoint but from a guest safety and room cleanliness one.

Unite Here Local 26 President Brian Lang calls the step "fantastic," citing both its labor and consumer aspects. "From our standpoint as an organization that represents hotel workers, and has seen contracting out like Hyatt did, in which folks who have worked 20-plus years get kicked to the curb," he says, "preventing something like that is not just good for workers themselves, but for the community."

At the same time, Lang says, of the consumer benefits of the move,

My understanding is that the City of Cambridge...determined that the best way to provide good service and a safe environment is to make sure that the organizations that have the licenses to run hotels also have the responsibility for the workers who are in the rooms.

Cambridge City Councilor Marjorie Decker, who originated the motion from the City Council to the License Commission recommending this move, notes that both Cambridge and the state of Massachusetts will not do business with Hyatt as a result of the firings, and says of the ban on outsourcing of specific jobs that:

On the one hand, it’s a private company, but a license is a privilege and they can’t operate without a license. One hotel made a decision about how to increase profits this way, and it was at the expense of the health and well-being of guests coming into our city.

But, Decker points out, the new regulation "is an affirmation of the majority of hotels that don’t do this."

The timeline on the License Commission finalizing and imposing this regulation is unclear, according to Decker. But it will be interesting to see how the Hyatt responds, to say the least.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 06:06 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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