Seven jobs that will never be the same after the pandemic

With more than 10 million jobs open in the United States, why are 7.7 million people out of work?

A big reason, economists say, is that many people reassessed their career goals during the pandemic and aren’t eager to return to the low-wage jobs they held before the crisis. That phenomenon ― along with factors such as ongoing child care and health concerns ― has caused a labor shortage that is keeping companies from meeting surging demand, raising consumer frustrations, and slowing the pace of economic growth.

As a result of this labor unrest, many types of jobs are morphing or ― in some cases ― being phased out altogether.

“Over the last year and a half, there has been some fundamental change, where people are looking for something else out of the jobs … better hours, better working conditions,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In August alone, more than 4 million people voluntarily quit their jobs, the highest number recorded by the Labor Department since it started tracking the figure more than 20 years ago.

To stem the rising tide of worker discontent, companies are offering record-high wages, sweetened benefits packages, and hefty sign-on bonuses in an effort to retain and woo workers.

Paul Osterman, who teaches human resources and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said the labor shortage situation should, in theory, be good for people looking for work, since it gives them an upper hand. That’s why it is troubling that since the start of the pandemic, more than 4.3 million people have stopped looking for work. But while “people are being much more choosy” now, he said not everyone can remain out of the workforce forever.

“It’s a race between people’s fear of going back to work and a need to pay the bills,” he said.

Here’s a look at seven types of jobs that have markedly declined in popularity over the last year and a half, why they may never be the same again, and what that might mean for consumers.

Restaurant workers

What’s going on? Walk by most restaurants, and there’s likely a “Now Hiring” sign on the door or in a window. Hosts, servers, cooks, and bartenders are all in high demand.

There was an exodus of workers from the industry during the pandemic following COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions that led to closures and layoffs. As the economy reopened, restaurants that survived have struggled to ramp up to full capacity, resulting in reduced hours and seating, limited menus, and longer waits for service. In many restaurants, servers are doing double duty as bartenders or as hosts. And it’s not uncommon for owners to work in the kitchen during the busiest hours.

A National Restaurant Association survey conducted in September found that nearly 80 percent of restaurants said they are understaffed.

The upshot: Restaurants are adapting to dealing with a leaner workforce. In some cases, that means expanding kitchen areas so that there is more room for to-go and delivery orders and less space for customers to sit. For others, it means investing in technology, such as QR codes to replace the role of servers, or in the case of Sweetgreen, buying robots from MIT that will make the chain’s signature salads.

Baristas

What’s going on? With so many office employees working from home ― and likely never going back in on a full-time basis ― coffee shops near their lonely buildings have cut back on hours, removed seating areas, converted to takeout-only, or closed.

Meanwhile, employees at Pavement Coffeehouse and Darwin’s Ltd. in the Boston area have moved to unionize for better working conditions amid a nation reckoning within the industry that’s even reached industry giant Starbucks.

The upshot: The days of a barista knowing your name may be waning. The two largest coffee chains operating in Massachusetts are replacing some human interaction with tech, perhaps making the process of getting a cup of coffee more efficient, but no doubt less personable. Dunkin’ just opened a “Dunkin’ Digital” store on Beacon Street in Boston where customers order through a touchscreen kiosk or an app. And Starbucks is planning to open a pick-up and delivery-only store in Cambridge.

Supermarket/retail cashiers

What’s going on? Despite inflation, consumers are increasingly spending money at stores, and major retailers ― including Costco, Walmart, and Target ― are reacting by raising wages so they have enough employees to meet the demand. The Washington Post reported that the average pay for restaurant and grocery workers has surpassed $15 nationally, according to Labor Department data.

But even with more perks and fatter paychecks, companies say they are still having trouble reaching hiring goals. As a result, some are taking steps to keep from losing people already on staff. Target, for example, said it will hire fewer seasonal employees than last year and pay its current workers more.

“Usually we are deep into the temporary holiday hiring phase,” said Challenger. “Some companies aren’t even announcing temporary hires, they are just trying to backfill all these permanent positions that they haven’t been able to staff.”

The upshot: Stores are starting to put more emphasis on self-checkout and curbside pickup. They also are closing traditional checkout aisles during hours when staffing is short, resulting in longer waits that could drive more consumers to online shopping.

Truck drivers

What’s going on? The trucking industry has long faced a shortage of drivers, but the pandemic added another layer of concern. The workforce, which skews older, was at high risk for COVID-19, but tasked with traveling around the country at the height of the pandemic, helping to restock store shelves wiped clean by panic buying while keeping up with a surge in online ordering.

A confluence of factors pushed some drivers to retire early or pursue different careers. Now, the industry is struggling to attract new drivers as it tries to keep up with a global supply-chain nightmare that shows no signs of abating.

The upshot: Truck driving doesn’t pay badly ― an average of more than $61,000 in Massachusetts, according the job site ZipRecruiter ― but the profession demands serious tradeoffs, including weeks on the road, isolation, and tight quarters. It’s not exactly entry-level work, either, since it requires a commercial driver’s license.

Warehouse and logistics

What’s going on? Similar to brick and mortar retail businesses, companies involved in the end of the supply chain are trying to beef up their staffing, too.

UPS, eager to hire 100,000 seasonal workers, said some candidates will receive a job offer within 30 minutes of submitting an application. Amazon announced last week that it is hiring 1,500 seasonal workers in Massachusetts as part of a 150,000-person national hiring spree. The jobs pay $18 an hour and include sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.

In a September earnings call, FedEx executives said labor shortages increased costs by $450 million, mostly because of higher wages, hiring incentives, and the money spent trying to meet shipping deadlines with fewer people. And FedEx still has 90,000 positions to fill ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The upshot: Challenger said the “bonus bonanza” could have unintended consequences, pulling people from other companies, instead of targeting the millions of people that left the workforce during the pandemic.

“I’ve heard at least anecdotally that people are coming into a job, waiting for their sign-on bonus, and then going to the [business] across the street and collecting that one,” he said.

And for those looking for work processing or delivering packages, the primary qualification this year may be having a pulse.

Uber/Lyft drivers

What’s going on? The pandemic was not kind to Uber and Lyft drivers, as people hunkered down at home instead of hailing rides to work, restaurants, and events. Even those people who did venture out were more likely to take their own car. Conversely, many drivers were not keen on the idea of interacting with a string of strangers in a small enclosed space. Demand for the service has returned, but not all drivers have.

Harry Campbell, founder of industry blog The Rideshare Guy — and a gig driver himself — said that when the ride-hailing business flatlined, many drivers signed up to work for booming food delivery services instead, and haven’t switched back.

“You put a lot less miles on your vehicle with [food] delivery, since people are ordering from local restaurants instead of calling 20 to 30 mile rides,” he said.

And with gasoline prices at their highest level in years, putting fewer miles on a car has a direct effect on a driver’s bottom line. According to the latest national data from AAA, drivers are paying $17 more on average to fill up their tanks than they did at this time last year.

“If gas prices are up and your earnings stay constant … you literally make less money,” Campbell said.

The upshot: Uber and Lyft have been spending millions of dollars to attract more drivers over the past few months, but in their latest earnings calls, executives said there’s still a long way to go.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in August that in major cities, “prices and wait times remain above our comfort levels.” When asked about whether riders may switch to alternative modes of transportation, Lyft chief financial officer Brian Roberts said its customers have been “relatively patient with the less than ideal prices and service levels that they face industrywide.”

Hotel workers

What’s going on? The labor situation is slightly different when it comes to hotel workers, said Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26, the local hospitality workers union. Because of the lack of events, conventions, and business travel, hotels are not scrambling to hire back all the workers they employed pre-pandemic.

About 80 percent of local union members are back at work, Aramayo said, but most are working only about 65 percent of the hours they used to, largely because not all hotel amenities ― including room service and hotel bars ― have returned. Hotel occupancy hovered at about 40 to 50 percent over the summer.

But Aramayo said hotels in areas such as South Florida, where the economic recovery has been more robust, are pulling out all the stops to hire people quickly, offering incentives such as wage increases and referral bonuses. It could be a sign of what’s to come in Boston.

“We have not seen that panic in this market; there are still people waiting to get their jobs back,” he said. “But once we hit 100 percent occupancy, I don’t know if there will be enough people.”

A possible tip of the iceberg is the already tight market for cooks. Aramayo said the new Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport had to offer pay at above union wages to fill positions before it opened last month.

The upshot: Although Aramayo said workers’ union contracts prevent an outright replacement of human jobs with technology, he’s seen more moves to head in that direction. He’s skeptical that getting rid of hotel perks — and employees — would be good for the industry in the long run.

“The hotel industry distinguishes itself from Airbnb and VRBO by saying ‘we offer a whole range of amenities,’” he said. “If industry makes a lot of cuts …I think a lot of travelers will say, ‘Airbnb is cheaper, why would I stay here?’”

In other words, hotel guests are going to want clean towels and refreshed bottles of shampoo every day, not just when they make a special request for such basics.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.

‘It’s at a time when we need it the most’: With Marathon back, hotels look forward to a busy weekend, but challenges remain

At the Revere Hotel Boston Common, excitement for the Boston Marathon was building all week. Runners were checking in. Employees decorated the lobby in yellow and blue. The Rebel’s Guild restaurant kitchen was planning a Sunday night pasta dinner.

It wasn’t quite like Marathon weekends of the past — those April days, before the pandemic, that kicked off Boston’s busy spring and summer tourism seasons. But the hotel was nearing full occupancy for the weekend, said general manager Mark Fischer, a welcome sign that the bump in leisure travel seen over the summer had not yet subsided.

“I can feel the buzz in my hotel lobby of runners who have started to head into the city, as well as friends and family coming to cheer them on,” he said. “We just have to keep the momentum going.”

Runner Kelly O’Rourke (center) of Minneapolis, wore his Boston Marathon jacket while shopping with his wife, Tina (right), at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street in Boston on Thursday.
Runner Kelly O’Rourke (center) of Minneapolis, wore his Boston Marathon jacket while shopping with his wife, Tina (right), at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street in Boston on Thursday.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Marathon weekend has always been a busy one for local hotels. Throw in a slew of other events — Red Sox playoff games, pandemic-postponed weddings that are finally happening, people just looking for a change of scene — and occupancy is up, at least for now, Fischer said.

Though hard data is not yet available for the fall, the Boston hotel market has been one of the slowest to recover in the country, according to data from Pinnacle Advisory Group, a Boston-based hospitality consultant.

Year-to-date revenue is down about 70 percent from 2019 levels. Business travel has yet to rebound, meaning hotels are relying on leisure travelers. Still, September was stronger than analysts expected, and October could follow suit — thanks to athletic events, university parent weekends, and warm weather extending vacation seasons.

”It’s a shot in the arm for the market, and it’s at a time when we need it the most,” said Sebastian Colella, vice president at Pinnacle Advisory Group.

Blue and yellow balloons decorated the lobby at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.
Blue and yellow balloons decorated the lobby at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Events like the Marathon and a revived fall sports scene have given hotels the guests they dearly needed to help make up for lost business travel, said Chris Allen, general manager of Boston Marriott Newton on Commonwealth Avenue, a mile and a half from Heartbreak Hill.

This weekend they are just about full, he said.

“Our weekends, Fridays and Saturdays, have been the bread and butter this fall, and even throughout the summer,” he said. “When [the Delta variant] started to surge in July-ish, that didn’t deem to put the brakes on the leisure travel as much as it kept the business travel at bay.”

But as with so many other areas of the economy right now, some workers are not benefiting from the rise in business, said Carlos Aramayo, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, a hospitality workers union. His members have only seen about 60 percent of their hours restored, Aramayo estimated, though the number may be higher this weekend. But whole departments at large hotels — typically people who worked in room service, dining, or lounges — remain at home.

“We strongly believe that in this moment, the interests of our members, the workers who want to get back on the job, align with the interests of our guests, who want to have a full service experiences at hotels,” Aramayo said. “From my perspective, a lot of the hotels in Boston are owned by real estate investment trusts …. Those are places that have been very aggressive at not reopening stuff. I think a lot of those financial entities are making these decisions without thinking of the guests.”

Officer Garcia took a picture of runners Tammy Kronebusch and Deb McClellan near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston on Thursday.
Officer Garcia took a picture of runners Tammy Kronebusch and Deb McClellan near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston on Thursday.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Among those employees is Zalinda Singh, who worked for in-room dining services at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport from 2015 until 2020, when she lost her job because of the pandemic.

“It’s been my favorite place to work,” Singh said. “You get a sense of, I just made this person’s day much better. Even if they had a bad experience somewhere else, I can make it better.”

Singh lives in East Boston with her husband and 11-year-old daughter. They lost a family member to COVID, and she and a few other relatives got sick. Since federal unemployment assistance for people laid off during the pandemic ran out in September, she said, it’s been hard to make sure her daughter isn’t too worried about money.

Singh would love to go back to work, she said — she misses her co-workers and interacting with guests, making sure their trays are exactly right so she can bring a bit of joy to their days.

“We’re patiently waiting,” Singh said. “We’re feeling that we’re long overdue.”


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at [email protected] or at 617-929-2043.

Harvard Dining Workers Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract

The union representing Harvard’s dining workers, UNITE HERE Local 26, overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year contract with the University Thursday, securing compensation increases and job protections for current and laid-off employees after four months of negotiations and engagement with a federal mediator.

The vote was 99.45 percent in favor of the tentative agreement the two parties reached last week. The contract includes a 15 percent increase in wages over the duration of the contract and increases to summer stipends, as well as a guarantee of working hours for current dining workers and jobs for some recently laid-off employees. The agreement also maintains the health care plan Local 26 won in 2016 after going on strike for 22 daysrocking campus.

“This contract makes sure Harvard’s dining hall workers are part of the economic recovery from COVID-19,” Michael Kramer, executive vice president of Local 26, said in a written statement.

Out of 364 votes, 362 union members voted in favor of the contract, easily clearing the simple majority threshold required for ratification.

Harvard University Dining Services Managing Director Smitha S. H. Haneef shared the news with HUDS management Thursday evening.

“I am looking forward to the future with and for you to build our food systems and hospitality,” she wrote in an email obtained by The Crimson. “This is a big day for all of us, as one HUDS team, to progressively advance Harvard mission through our service.”

Under the new agreement, wages will be increased retroactive to June 21, with annual raises between 2.75 and 3.25 percent totaling $4.03 per hour over the five years, according to the union’s contract summary. The summer stipend, which pays HUDS employees over the vacation regardless of number of shifts they work, will also gradually increase from $3,000 to $3,800 by the end of the agreement.

The contract also maintains the union’s current health care coverage, which was a landmark achievement in its last round of contract negotiations. In 2016, Harvard agreed to pay insurance copays on the University staff and hourly insurance plans for HUDS employees and created a new premium contribution tier for employees who make less than $55,000 annually.

Additionally, HUDS will maintain the “authorized hours of every current HUDS employee” on the payroll as of Dec. 1, according to the union’s contract summary.

The protections against layoffs and hours reductions come after the union alleged last month HUDS management was planning to cut 20 percent of full-time dining positions in the residential houses after reviewing the University’s proposed schedules for the next academic years. Harvard has since withdrawn those schedules.

Edwin J. Hinspeter, a Leverett House shop steward, said he believes the job security side letter is unprecedented for Local 26.

“It’s a really good contract for us,” he said after casting his ballot. “I believe the job security language — we’ve never had language like that before.”

Willie H. Moore, an assistant cook at Harvard Law School, said he voted yes because he wants to maintain his current position until retirement.

“I’ve been there 22 years,” he said. “I would love to retire there and continue my life.”

HUDS will also offer positions to employees formerly contracted from dining management company Restaurant Associates who were laid off from the Graduate School of Design and the Law School earlier this year, according to the Local 26 contract summary.

According to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton, Harvard is seeking to fill more than 50 positions, and former RA employees are welcome to apply.

Claudia J. Escobar, a former catering employee at HLS who was laid off from her position, said the contract may allow her to return to work as a Harvard employee.

“It is our right to [go] back to work because we [were] working during the pandemic, and I think we deserve to go back to work,” Escobar said after voting to ratify the contract.

Hilary J. Flores-Hebert, a Business School dining worker and volunteer at the polling station, said she decided to volunteer to help other members gain a contract that guaranteed greater job security. In addition, she said she supports the continued health care benefits and compensation increases.

“I think that’s super important, given that we’re essential workers, that we put so much of our time and effort to contribute to this community,” she said.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

Terminated Marriott Copley staff’s new jobs show a working class being forced further down the economic ladder

Beatriz Torres almost made it. She worked for 23 years at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, cleaning and serving food to VIPs in the concierge lounge, and planned to stay for two more so she would qualify for free stays at Marriott hotels for life.

But last September, Torres lost her job, along with half the hotel’s staff, when business plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The property is slowly coming back to life, but Torres, 70, isn’t part of it; nor are most of the 229 hourly employees terminated along with her. Torres now works at Starbucks at Logan Airport, making roughly $7 an hour less than she did at the Marriott.

Torres was among scores of employees, many of them immigrants, forced out after working at the city’s second largest hotel for years — decades, in some cases — making upward of $20 an hour, enough for some of them to buy houses, send children to college, and support family members back home. Nearly a year later, many have found new jobs, but often at reduced wages, without the steady hours and retirement benefits they had before. At the same time, Marriott Copley has contracted out its sports bar and restaurant, Champions, to the Yard House, which is paying far less for some jobs than the hotel did.

From the outset, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the country’s lower-wage workforce, particularly those in the service industry. And as the dust settles, it’s becoming clear that many corporations seeking to recover losses are doing so on the backs of their workers, pushing them out, and down the economic ladder, as they look to cut labor costs permanently.

A woman read a paper handed out by a fired hotel worker in front of the Marriott Copley in August.
A woman read a paper handed out by a fired hotel worker in front of the Marriott Copley in August. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

Torres, who is originally from Mexico, said her meager savings are gone after being out of work for 16 months, as are her dreams of spending her retirement visiting family in Texas and Spain. So far, she’s managed to pay her bills and hold on to the room she rents from an El Salvadoran family in Everett, but she’s fearful for her future.

“It’s like a nightmare that I’m living,” Torres said. “What is going to happen to me?”

Marriott Copley did not respond to requests for comment.

Like service workers around the country, the terminated hotel employees have been caught in the crosshairs of the COVID-19 crisis.

Immigrant women with limited English skills and no higher education who worked in food service and accommodation suffered more job losses during the pandemic than any other group in Massachusetts, according to a report released in March by the Workforce Solutions Group, a statewide advocacy coalition.

Hotels in Boston, where more than two-thirds of hospitality workers are people of color, are still reeling from the pandemic. As of July, hotel room revenues in the area were down more than 70 percent year-to-date compared to 2019, according to Pinnacle Advisory Group — the slowest recovery after San Francisco and New York among large markets.

This is a critical moment for the industry, said Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. As travel continues to languish, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers could be at risk without federal aid, he said, noting that in Boston, properties have received little to no pandemic relief.

Across Massachusetts, employment in the hospitality and leisure sector was down 20 percent in July compared to two years ago, according to Pinnacle, by far the hardest hit industry in the state.

Hmad Birali, a former dishwasher at the Marriott Copley, recently landed another hospitality job, as a housekeeper at a small hotel in Brookline. But he’s now making just $15 an hour, with no 401(k) match and no guarantee of full-time hours. He recently applied for several jobs at the Marriott Copley, where postings for Yard House dishwashers are listed at $17-$20 an hour — less than the $25 an hour he was making at the Marriott, but more than he’s making now. So far, there’s been no response.

Birali, 51, is worried that he won’t be able to afford the rent on the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife in Revere, or to send money to his mother and 15-year-old son in Morocco.

“They used me,” said Birali, speaking in Arabic through a translator, noting that he worked nights for five years, never called in sick, and did any job managers asked of him. “In the end they just threw us in the street.”

Hmad Birali, a former employee at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, prepared dinner for himself in his apartment in Revere.
Hmad Birali, a former employee at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, prepared dinner for himself in his apartment in Revere.NATHAN KLIMA FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/THE BOSTON GLOBE

Last year, essential workers were hailed as heroes, said Darlene Lombos, head of the Greater Boston Labor Council, and now, with corporate profits squeezed or nonexistent, they’re expendable — that is, an expense that can be cut. On Labor Day, the council held a rally in front of the Marriott Copley to condemn what Lombos called “the throwing away of Black and brown workers who are actually risking their lives to save ours and keep us going as a society.”

Payroll is the industry’s biggest expense, said Sebastian Colella, a Boston-based vice president at Pinnacle Advisory Group, and considering the robust staffing levels and decent wages at many properties, reining in labor costs is the first thing they’re going to look at. And those changes could be permanent, he said: “That’s something that might stick.

Indeed, the chief executive of Host Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Marriott Copley, told investors in earnings calls that the company viewed the pandemic as “an opportunity to redefine the hotel operating model” that could result in major cost savings. Host executives have mentioned eliminating front desk staff, reducing restaurant offerings, and doing away with daily room cleanings as part of reexamining minimum “base labor standards.”

Host did not respond to requests for comment.

In some ways, economic downturns give corporations both the impetus and the cover to restructure their workforces, said Randy Albelda, a recently retired economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“It’s an old story in the United States,” she said. “Workers who have essentially scratched their way up, and corporations that have the upper hand in terms of holding the power to hire and fire and to negotiate wages.”

A Marriott employee recognition certificate given to Hmad Birali hung on a wall in his apartment in Revere.
A Marriott employee recognition certificate given to Hmad Birali hung on a wall in his apartment in Revere.NATHAN KLIMA FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/THE BOSTON GLOBE

Several hotel companies, including Marriott and Hilton, have already ended automatic daily housekeeping services at many properties — a practice that, if implemented industrywide, would slash the room attendant workforce by up to 39 percent, according to estimates by Unite Here, the national hospitality workers’ union. Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26 in Boston, which has been helping the non-union Marriott Copley workers, said this push to streamline staffs will not only lead to fewer jobs, it means the workers who remain could have more work piled on them.

One woman who still works at the Marriott Copley said that the hotel is so shorthanded that some employees are being asked to work six days a week. Workers are also on “pins and needles” about getting fired, said the woman, who asked not to be identified to protect her job security.

“I’m afraid because it might happen to me,” she said. “The managers are saying we’re safe, but look what they did to the other workers.”

Even before the COVID crisis, hotels had been seeking to cut labor costs as they fought off increased competition from home-sharing companies like Airbnb, said Isaac Wanasika, a management professor at the University of Northern Colorado, and properties are now focused even more on “reducing the human footprint.” A number of other local hotels got rid of workers during the pandemic, with no guarantees they’d be rehired, including the Revere and the Quincy Marriott. (The Four Seasons and Nine Zero also terminated staff, but later agreed to recall them when business returned.) A number of hotels around the country have also permanently reduced their staffs, including the Marriott Marquis in New York, which ousted 850 employees and is outsourcing its restaurant and catering operations.

Some who were let go from the Marriott Copley see a disconcerting pattern in the people hired to replace them. The five concierge lounge attendants, all immigrant women ranging from age 50 to 70, including Torres, filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for “age, race, and nationality discrimination” after they applied for and were rejected for jobs at the hotel’s new M Club lounge, jobs they said the general manager had told them before the pandemic would be theirs. Of the nine people hired to work there, all of whom previously worked at Champions, seven are white, according to the complaint, while their age range skews just slightly younger, from mid-30s to mid-60s.

“We were all immigrants and people of color, but they chose to make their lounge attendants younger and whiter,” said Patricia Tchoumi, 53, who is from Cameroon and made $23 an hour at the Marriott Copley, where she worked for 17 years.

Tchoumi just started orientation as a room service attendant at the Boston Omni Hotel at the Seaport, which opened last week. Her hourly wage is far lower than before, though she’ll also get tips. But she doesn’t know if she’ll get full-time hours; last week, she only got 15. Tchoumi is anxious to catch up on the mortgage at her three-family home in Lynn, where her unemployed tenants have been unable to pay rent.

Aside from the M Club staffers, it appears that most of the 50 Champions workers have not been rehired. The Yard House did not respond to questions about bringing back hotel staff.

Ramona Pena, 59, was a cook at Champions for 16 years, and has yet to find another job. She’s been applying in restaurants and stores, but worries that her age and limited English are holding her back. Her fiance also worked at the Marriott Copley, in security, but has been out on disability. Their hotel jobs allowed them to buy a house in Taunton in 2015, but now that her unemployment has run out, Pena, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, is worried about how they’ll pay the mortgage and support her parents.

When she found out she was being let go, she felt betrayed. “I felt it in my stomach, in my head. I still feel bad,” she said in Spanish through a translator, starting to cry. “I was definitely planning on working there until I retired.”

Labor advocates decry the outsourcing of staff jobs, noting that it allows companies to shift responsibilities to outside contractors and makes labor standards more difficult to enforce. But the immediate payoff is hard for companies to resist, said Wanasika, the University of Northern Colorado professor. “Outsourcing is an effective short-term strategy to reduce costs and risk,” he said.

Tahira Dzindo, a hostess at Champions for 14 years, came from Bosnia in 2001 with her husband and two young children and two backpacks, part of a wave of refugees fleeing the war torn country. They spoke no English and had no money, but Dzindo, 45, and her husband got jobs and eventually bought a house in Malden and put their daughter through college. “I was working double shifts,” she said. “Double, double, double to make as much as I could.”

No one called Dzindo about working at the Yard House, and she didn’t bother applying, considering hostess jobs are listed at $16 an hour — $8 an hour less than what she made there.

“That’s not going to get me anywhere,” said Dzindo, who is one of the lucky ones, recently landing a hostess job at a hotel restaurant making slightly more than she did at Champions. “[People] want to work, but they don’t want to work for nothing.”


Katie Johnston can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.

‘We’re Part of Harvard Too’: Dining Workers’ Union Flyers Campus, Concerned Over Proposed Hours Cut

Fearing reductions in the dining staff’s hours in Harvard College’s residential houses, UNITE HERE Local 26, the union representing dining employees at the University, has solicited the support of students through a flyer campaign as undergraduates return to campus.

The flyers allege Harvard is “using austerity politics to marginalize essential workers” after collecting tuition during the pandemic and growing its endowment through the fiscal year 2020.

“At the same time, Harvard is pushing food service workers to the sidelines by slashing full-time jobs and cutting hours – even though more students are on campus than ever,” the flyer reads.

In July, Harvard University Dining Services announced changes to its menus and hours beginning this fall, including full breakfast service at Annenberg and Quincy House, longer breakfast and dinner hours, and more kosher, halal, vegan, and vegetarian options. HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin wrote the new service model is designed “to continue to meet the changing needs of students and our community.”

“These updates will necessitate some modifications to staff schedules, but as we have shared with the union, those adjustments will be undertaken over time, with union input and in accordance with the union contract,” she wrote.

At the union’s request, Harvard shared preliminary schedules with Local 26 for the coming academic years, according to Martin.

Local 26 President Carlos Aramayo said in an interview that the union analyzed those proposed schedules and determined they would amount to a 20 percent cut in the number of full-time dining employees in residential houses and an 8 percent cut in total hours available.

Martin wrote it was “premature” to comment on the union’s analysis, especially as the preliminary schedules would not fully go into effect until the 2022-23 academic year. HUDS is currently piloting the new menus it announced in July so that the union and students can give feedback on the new model, according to Martin.

“It would be premature to comment on the proposed service models and draft schedules that have been shared with Local 26 during these negotiations,” Martin wrote. “As the University has shared with Local 26, these models and schedules are being piloted, and not implemented until fall 2022, with feedback and input from the union over the course of this academic year.”

Harvard committed to not laying off any current HUDS employee while the new model is being discussed this year, according to Martin. She added all current employees affected by the changes next year will be offered comparable positions, which HUDS believes will be possible given current projections.

Aramayo said he believes any cuts to workers’ hours contradicts Harvard’s commitment to an equitable and sustained recovery that supports its Black and brown workers.

“What we’re seeing is proposed changes to the schedule that will leave a fifth of the people who have full time positions in the dining halls working below full-time,” he said. “With Harvard putting out these proposed changes to the schedules and to the meals, a fifth of the people with full-time jobs in dining services are now facing profound uncertainty about the future, and they want to do something about it.”

Hakim Akendar, a pantry steward in Winthrop House who has worked at Harvard for more than 20 years, said he is afraid of losing 10 hours in shifts, meaning he would no longer be considered a full-time employee.

“I was hopeful that we’re going to move on to better days, especially [since] we have more students coming to Winthrop,” he said. “I was hopeful that I’m going to put Covid behind me, move on to better days. I’m shocked that this is what’s happening.”

Reduced hours would strain his finances and his ability to support his family, Akendar added.

Charlene V. Almeida, a dining employee at Quincy House with more than two decades of experience at HUDS, wrote in a statement that she might not be able to make rent in Cambridge or feed her children on reduced hours. Citing Harvard’s financial stability during the pandemic, she called on the University to protect dining staff and their families who are “part of Harvard too.”

“Harvard claims to be committed to this community,” she wrote. “They should be making sure we all recover from COVID-19.”

The Harvard College Student Labor Action Movement helped Local 26 flyer campus. It is also holding a teach-in to support the dining workers on September 4.

“Once again, the richest university in the world is attempting to cut HUDS worker jobs and hours,” the organization wrote in a statement. “Rather than guarantee dining hall workers good paying and stable jobs, Harvard is making their futures uncertain with the threats of additional cuts. All this in the midst of a global pandemic and while our dining halls are short-staffed as it is.”

Local 26 ultimately hopes to avoid any cuts in hours for its employees.

“At the very least, a restoration of the number of hours that we had in 2019, if not an increase, is essential to have, from our perspective, a fair and equitable recovery coming out of Covid and to allay the fears and concerns of our members,” Aramayo said. “We’re always willing to discuss that with the University.”

The union’s shop stewards “are going to look at every possible action that we could take to punctuate how important this is to get resolved for our members over there,” he added.

In 2016 during their last round of contract negotiations, hundreds of HUDS workers went on strike for 22 days over compensation, health care, and job security, ultimately reaching a tentative agreement with the University.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.