Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moved to Respond

I suppose I should no longer be shocked at the incursion of government into business, particularly not in Massachusetts, but I find this reported action of Governor Deval Patrick beyond shocking. In an emotional reaction to the laying off of 100 hotel employees in the Hyatt hotel chain in Boston, Patrick is threatening to call for state employees to boycott the chain. Yes. This is an elected leader using the power of his position to encourage consumer activism in order to hurt a business because it made a tough personnel decision that didn't sit well with the governor.

What motivated the governor to threaten this unprecedented action?
“There’s no question that the story about what happened to the Hyatt workers was made public in a way that, to say the least, was unusual - splashed across the front page of the morning newspaper. While perhaps these kinds of actions were not unique to Hyatt, certainly it was a . . . disturbing portrait of corporate behavior,’’ said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. “Consequently, I believe the governor as well as many others were moved to respond.’’ [emphasis added]
Unlike the “many others” – at least one private association reported to have cancelled some business with Hyatt based on its decision to replace the 100 workers with less expensive workers – the Governor wields more power than just the would-be hotel dollars spent by state employees.
Patrick’s press secretary, Kyle Sullivan, said by e-mail yesterday that Patrick’s decision was about “standing with these workers against Hyatt’s unfair actions,’’ not about hurting the company’s bottom line. Sullivan also said the state has faced difficult decisions about staffing, noting that 1,400 state positions have been eliminated since last October through layoffs, attrition, and other reductions. Of the Hyatt decision, Sullivan said Patrick’s “concern is with the abrupt manner that these workers were discharged and their replacement with lower paid workers.’’
Bottom line: The Governor didn’t like the way the business handled its decision and that’s good enough for him to get involved. After all, what are our elected leaders for if not to whip up emotions against private business matters?

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