|Cape Cod Times, Hyannis,
Mass.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 4, 2009--At the end of last month, U.S. companies reported that they had cut another 254,000 jobs. Unemployment nationally hovers at 9.8 percent -- nearly one in every 10 American workers.
And that's just September's figures. If you look at how many jobs have been lost during the recession, from December 2007 till today, the number stands at 6.9 million. Nearly 7 million Americans out of work.
The question is: Where's the outrage?
The answer: It's at the Hyatt Hotel in Boston.
This week, criticism of the Hyatts' handling of layoffs of about 100 housekeeping employees swelled to include a union representing about 1,700 Boston cabbies. They already had Gov. Deval Patrick on their side; he unwisely ordered state workers to cease doing business with the hotels unless the layoffs were reversed.
Considering that the Hyatt layoffs involve 100 people -- as opposed to 7 million -- one might wonder why these job losses are being felt with such a sting. One reason undoubtedly is the devilishly cruel detail -- which the Hyatt denies -- that the housekeeping staff who were let go first were required to train their own replacements, workers hired for much lower pay. For those who sit and mourn next to empty desks, once filled by colleagues and friends now laid off, that little twist seems almost too much to bear.
And then there is the simple fact that people earning $15 an hour or working in housekeeping crews tend to be the part of the workforce that really needs the jobs and the money. If you're in that population, there's little wiggle room left if the job slips away.
All this makes the Hyatt situation more volatile and antagonizing to a public already pressed to the breaking point, financially speaking. It's intolerable to see Wall Street bailed out (with our money), only to see the back street trashed again.
But just what to do about this is an open question. Boycotting the Hyatts only serves to worsen the already stressed business climate that led to this kind of dramatic action. Punishing the punishers doesn't necessarily -- or always -- solve the problem.
But the whole mess at least issues a wake-up call to all employers that real people are actual victims of trauma and loss when economic times go bad. The minimum that can be said about Hyatt Hotels' is that they did an appallingly bad job at the public relations side of what was never going to go down well. If they had given a little more thought to how their actions would be perceived and experienced, they might have invested greater effort in looking for alternatives or how to present their decisions to the people affected by them.
No one thinks that corporations can escape the economic realities of a recession. But it isn't too much to ask that the people who are in the distasteful position of serving as corporate executioners remember that, for some people, $15 an hour, or cleaning toilets, represents a whole world.
Those people -- all too often unnoticed -- are already cleaning up after the rest of us. When the great wheel of the broken economy rolls and threatens to crush them as well, we might at least try to steer things so that the last look they get is something other than one more indifferent mess.
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