Concierge who “agitated” for better treatment says he was fired for it

Workers make their case against Hyatt Regency Baltimore in hearing on National Labor Relations Board complaint

hyatt workers outside

Hyatt workers outside the National Labor Relations Board Monday before the start of a hearing on alleged unfair labor practices.

Photo by: Tracy Lingo, Unite Here!

In the months before he was fired last March, Hyatt Regency Baltimore concierge Jeremy Pollard was “agitating” his co-workers “pretty much constantly,” the 38-year-old Pollard told a National Labor Relations Board judge yesterday.

He didn’t mention to his fellow workers that he was quietly meeting once a week with a representative from the Unite Here! Local 7 hospitality workers union. But Pollard testified that, guided by the union, he was sharing his grievances about management in the employee cafeteria and locker room at “every opportunity.”

A major beef for the $14.71-per-hour concierge was that he’d been asked on multiple occasions to work as a $7.25-per-hour bellman. Problem was, he said, there was often no concierge on duty at those times so he was asked to cover both jobs – at the lower hourly pay rate.

“I didn’t think it was fair,” Pollard said, recounting how he had refused to perform concierge duties while receiving bellman’s wages.

When an impatient guest complained about not getting concierge help from him, the incident led to him being fired, he said.

He’d been been the hotel’s concierge for 13 years and 11 months.

Jeremey Pollard testified at NLRB hearing. (Photo by fern Shen)

Hyatt concierge Jeremy Pollard testified at the NLRB hearing. (Photo by Fern Shen)

“Airing Our Dirty Laundry”

Pollard’s testimony came on the third day of a hearing on an unfair labor practices complaint filed by the employees, working with Unite Here Local 7.

They allege that four hotel employees, including Pollard, were fired because of their union activities, and that other workers involved in union discussions were harassed or harshly disciplined.

In November, the NLRB issued a complaint against Hyatt on  behalf of the workers, who want back pay, reinstatement to their jobs and other remedies.

The Baltimore Hyatt’s general manager Gail Smith-Howard has previously told The Brew, through a spokeswoman, that the employees were not targeted because of union matters and were disciplined appropriately.

Yesterday she sent a statement accusing Unite Here of attempting to organize employees in Baltimore and elsewhere “though a non-democratic and often intimidating process.” It noted that the Hyatt “was ranked #2 in the mid-size business category in the Baltimore Sun’s Top Places to Work 2011 survey.”

Yesterday, NLRB attorney Sean R. Marshall sought to show that Pollard’s union activities were known by management, including one supervisor with whom Pollard says he discussed Unite Here. (“His locker was next to mine.”)

Pollard said he talked to some 80 people about working conditions at the hotel, telling many the tale of his request for two-month leave, at first denied. After Pollard called corporate headquarters in Chicago, the decision was reversed.

“I said ‘I got this fighting alone. Imagine what we could be getting if we were fighting together,’” he recalled.

Pollard also recalled what happened when he called around to other Hyatts and found they did not permit bellmen to perform concierge duties.

A supervisor, he said, “got visibly upset and said that I should not have called those other hotels, that I was airing our dirty laundry.”

Testimony in the case is expected to continue through the week.

“Cutting Costs, Squeezing Us”

Pollard, who has moved on to other employment, said he was “proud to have helped my co-workers stand together and see it’s possible to have good jobs in Baltimore.”

In a conversation with The Brew outside the hearing room, he said his experience was reflective of the hotel’s general trend of, increasingly, bringing in low-paid temp workers to replace full-time employees.

“It was people getting paid $7.25 or $8 an hour with no job security, no benefits, no vacation time or sick days. [Housekeepers] were doing up to 30 rooms a day at one point,” he said. “They were cutting costs, squeezing us.”

“I saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “I felt a real personal urgency about organizing. There wasn’t going to be anybody left.”

(Hyatt management, in previous statements to The Brew, has denied the charges of excessive use of temp workers.)

His own financial situation worsened as his paychecks began to shrink, Pollard said, explaining that he had to move back in with his parents when he couldn’t pay his bills.

“That was tough,” he said. (He said he insists on paying rent to his parents.)

One of six siblings raised in a Canton row house, Pollard is a lifelong Baltimore resident who regards himself as part of a forgotten demographic.

“I feel like what I’m doing is going to help make a difference for my city. Not for the $100,000-a-year people they want to bring in, but for the people who have always lived here,” he said.

“It gets me how these politicians, it’s always ‘We want to bring in people with money.’ It’s never ‘We want to help the people who have always been here.’”

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  • ushanellore

    The economy is on the side of the employer.  People are disposable and a dime a dozen in this atmosphere.  Unfair practices are common.  Hyatt and other corporations always say the same thing when they stretch employees, underpay them and give them work not designated in their job descriptions–the employees were recalcitrant under performers and were not good team players.  Being a good team player boils down to a couple of things for these employers: you are not a union member and never plan to be one, you bad mouth unions every chance you get and you are willing to take crap as and when it is dished out to you.

    Try getting family leave from one of these callous employers when your loved one is sick.  That could get you fired.  And the reason fabricated afterward?  You underperformed.  Try getting temporary disability if, let’s say, you develop diabetes and you are overwhelmed by all you must do to learn about your disease and manage it.  Postulate your doc has written a moving letter justifying the need for you to be off.  No way, Jose.  You could be fired just when you’ve been laid low by your uncooperative body.  Perfect chance to cook up all sorts of allegations against you, including that you are a lazy son of a gun, even if you have had no life for the past decade, working your tail off for the heartless corporation. 

    Try taking a couple of days off when you have the flu–if you never took the flu vaccine you’re in big trouble.  That means you brought it on yourself and hence you deserve to be fired.  Suppose you took the vaccine and got the flu anyway, it couldn’t be that the flu vaccine was ineffective–which it can be–but not for a middle manager, a paper pushing dictator in one of these corporations–you’re lying, how could it be you got the flu when you took the vaccine?  If you are wheezing and the doctor’s manual says you’ll spread the flu if you go to work and you stay home like the good patient you ought to be, that’s when they’ll sneak up on you and fire you– kaboom– and replace you with some temporary pot smoking greenhorn, who’ll say “Yes sir!” to every dung they throw his way.

    The temporary workers better be peeing in their pants.  If they are thinking, “I’ll take the job  offered, shut my mouth, do what I am told, work for a pittance with no benefits and all will be well with my world,” they should think again.  THE ROBOTS ARE  COMING! They don’t complain, they don’t take sick leave, they don’t ask for raises, they don’t strike and they don’t join unions.  They also perform better and faster at most tasks assigned to them.  They even weld now and stack and clean and build and diagnose and dispense meds–you name it, they are better at it than you can ever hope to be.  They can even build and rebuild themselves and they know the answers to all sorts of questions–they are encyclopedic and more importantly–the oligarchs or the plutocrats–whatever you want to call the top global 1%– love em.   

    But when artificial intelligence is made sentient at MIT–man, that will be the day–we’ll have big wars because the robots will no longer obey–at least some won’t.  Robots versus men.  Everyone human will have a job then.  We’ll be drafted into an army to fight the rebellious robots.  We’ll be put on rations of bread and water by the plutocrats who’ll live in gated communities with their massage therapist robots, their kitchen maid robots and their sex therapist robots– the sweet, compliant robots.   The robots that don’t comply– we’ll have to fight them to the death.

    I hope Discer doesn’t slice and dice my prognostications to call them verbose.  I say if you have ADD–a twenty first century glorified malady– and you have a problem with paras, one liners being your favorite form of communication, then skip this and save yourself the urgent need for aspirin.         

    • discer

      Oh my, how you do go on. But that’s ok it’s who you are. I prefer to be a bit more succinct. I guess some folk simply need constant validation.

  • ushanellore

    Succinct or not, you need it too–otherwise you won’t be on any site commenting.  All expression is a search for validation Discer.  I am Dickensian and long winded.  You are Hemingway-ian and keep your language clipped.  But Hemingway committed suicide.  If he had blabbed a bit more and had not been so terse, tightly wound and spare he may have found an outlet for his maladies and preserved himself.  Besides men are verbally constipated. 

    Your problem may be your gender–you almost give it away with your cut and dry musings.  To tell you the truth, no one has given you or me that much validation based on our writings.  But it is fun to draw out the opposition and hear other points of view. 

    Even when you say, “I prefer to be a bit more succinct,” you are drawing a contrast between you and me and looking for a validation of your own style though you condescendingly allow me my overflow of language, by also saying, “But that’s OK, that’s who you are.”  Usually a succinct style will bring more validation than windedness.  Why?  People today, bred on Tweets, will read you more thoroughly than they will read me.

    That’s why it is predicted the novel as a writing form will be dead in the 21st century.  All descriptions will become superfluous and people will be impatient to get to the point–the point being what?  I don’t know.  Do you?      

    • Gerald Neily

      Pretty soon you’ll have The Brew renamed the Brewsha, Usha. You seem to be taking over here.

  • MC2012

    Didn’t the concierge-bellman also receive tips?  Citing the base wage without this fact is a bit misleading as it should have doubled or tripled his pay, at either post.  Guests stiff the maids, but not the bellman.  Not that it matters whether or not he was treated fairly, but I’m guessing anyone who refuses to help a guest is not really Hyatt material.

    • claudlaw

      Given that he managed to be Hyatt material for nearly 14 years as a concierge, it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that he could politely stand his ground when it came to performing a job that wasn’t in his description. 

  • ushanellore

    MC 2012,
    You really are 2012 or you are from management.  Look, it is not management’s concern if the guy is earning tips.  Just because he can earn tips and generous tips at that does not mean they can stiff him.  The problem was that  they exploited him as a bellman, paying him less and stretching him thin.  Then they expected him to play the role of a  concierge on the salary of a bellman–to which your answer is that he should shut up because he earns tips and he should obediently help a guest in the role of a concierge during the time he’s paid as a bellman.  Either he’s one or he’s the other.  This is about job description.  

    He shouldn’t join the union.  He shouldn’t complain to the union even if he joins the union.  He should be sweet Hyatt material and lift everyone’s suit case even if he’s being abused because that is the civil thing to do.  Wow, next you’ll say he should have rolled over and played dead.  I tell you, the employment situation is the pits but there are enough folks out there to slobber over management and act as though all the gains made by labor are for naught.  No wonder employers are running roughshod over the bodies of  their employees.      

  • cwals99

    As someone who marches with these Hyatt employees and the many labor and social groups that support them I thank these workers for saying ‘enough is enough’.  It has even Marketplace worried as organizing at Walmart and all across the retail and service industry grows strong.  We are on the way to rebuilding a strong labor force and demanding that existing labor laws be enforced is a must.  We thank the National Labor Board for selecting this case to pursue as their budget has been slashed to make it difficult for them to do oversight.

    None of this is legal and none of this would be happening if Baltimore wasn’t #1 in the entire country for allowing businesses to get away with impoverishing its working class. These labor organizations like Unite Here 7/ Workers United/ and SEIU are doing a good job making labor’s voices heard.  We want more to come!!

  • ushanellore

    You are great.  I love reading you.

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