This year’s No Ho Ho Award Winner: Phil Stamm, Hyatt Regency Boston GM

Sometimes it’s better just to keep your mouth shut.  At least that’s the advice of the day for Phil Stamm, general manager of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Boston, who used a Christmas Day op-ed piece in the Boston Globe to defend the controversial August termination of nearly 100 low-paid housekeeping workers from three Boston Hyatt hotels.

Hyatt terminated the workers after having them train their own replacements from a Georgia-based contracting company.  The workers claim they were told that they were training holiday temps.

The story has become a national one and a rallying cry for workers.  Stamm apparently wanted to tell the other side of it.  I’m not sure he did himself or Hyatt any favors.

Stamm’s op-ed: We feel your pain

Stamm’s op-ed makes it sound like Hyatt made the decisions only after engaging in every other cost-cutting move imaginable.  I’ll certainly concede that the hotel business is in difficult times right now.  But even giving him the benefit of the doubt on the economic pressures that raised the spectre of layoffs, Stamm’s dishonesty betrays itself when he pleads how Hyatt has taken extraordinary measures to help the laid off workers:

However, we have been able to extend a meaningful helping hand to our former colleagues.

In addition, each housekeeper received severance pay and an automatic extension of health care coverage – for which we are paying all the costs – through March 31, 2010. Housekeepers who accept the positions they have been offered with United Service Companies will then be eligible for health care coverage through that company.

At a time when the unemployment rate for Massachusetts came in at 8.9 percent, Hyatt took extraordinary steps to provide support to our former associates. All were offered full-time positions in Boston by United Service Companies, a national hotel staffing organization. We have also guaranteed that they will receive their Hyatt rate of pay in these positions through the end of 2010. As an alternative, our former associates can opt for a job preparedness and placement assistance program.

Reality: We really don’t feel your pain

The picture he wishes to paint is one of a company reluctantly making a decision to terminate these workers while providing abundant transitional support.

However, the reality is very different: Hyatt did not offer these options to the housekeeping workers until AFTER the public outcry about these terminations and the way in which they were done.  When the criticism started coming in hot and heavy, Hyatt had to make it look like it cared.

Stamm also intimates that the terminated workers were protected by a union when he criticizes the advocacy role of Unite Here in advising the workers.  This, too, is untrue.  The hotel workers were not unionized.  Unite Here entered the picture to support the workers after they were terminated.  However, in the web-posted comments to Stamm’s op-ed (see link below), it’s clear that some readers now mistakenly believe that the workers had union representation.

Yes, we are going through a very, very difficult recession, and in some cases, layoffs are necessary.  But Hyatt’s handling of this matter suggests there is more at play here, a sort of corporate sociopathy that deliberately tries to paint a misleading picture of how it has regarded these workers.

Stamm’s op-ed:

Previous blog posts on the Hyatt situation:

2 responses

  1. So true! Hyatt CEO Hoplamazian, who earned some $1.8 million in 2008, replaces 100 people earning $15 per hour (hardly a fortune in downtown Boston) with temps earning $8 sans benefits (hello, public assistance)- and the company is apparently blindsided by the public outcry that follows. Talk about a disconnect. And all the breathless sympathizing and handwringing by the company’s spokespeople after the fact only made the whole sorry spectacle uglier. The height (or rather, depth) of it came in a Sept. 25 article in the Boston Globe, when an interviewer asked Hyatt spokeswoman Farley Kern why the company couldn’t just re-hire the workers. Kern’s response? “That would put the (replacement) workers out of a job.”
    Welcome to the second Gilded Age.

    • Elizabeth, yikers, I missed the Globe comment on putting the replacement workers out of a job! Oh my, these guys are living in an alternate reality.

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