As a long-time visitor to Laconia and fan of the NASWA Resort, I had to express disappointment in your reporting on the recent Department of Labor news release. It’s painful to read about the fines paid by the resort for labor infractions, as you paint the company as an uncaring and negligent employer, which is not the culture of the NASWA, a three-generation, family-owned and -operated resort.
Imagine being fined nearly $125,000 because an employee was disgruntled. Any small business can identify with the NASWA Resort and, unfortunately, the DOL used the company as an example of what could happen to hundreds or thousands of firms in New England — all trying to find good employees for service businesses.
When I first visited the NASWA, I was so impressed by the kindness and hospitality of the whole family and staff that I became a “regular” and even worked for the company for a time, always treated with respect and appreciation.
I have witnessed the resort’s long and time-consuming process of finding qualified, quality employees to fill its 140 seasonal positions. As your paper reported in June that the NASWA was short 50 employees, thanks to New Hampshire’s 2.6% unemployment rate, and you reported the shortage is shared by ALL hospitality businesses in your region.
Cynthia Makris’ reluctance to comment on your story no doubt reflects her exhaustion with the investigation process, which put a great strain on her and the business during the 2018 summer season. Despite hiring expensive legal counsel to handle immigration laws and a recruiter to handle proper transfer of foreign employees, the NASWA was fined for infractions of detailed and confusing laws that the company didn’t know existed; they paid fines and restitution to those allegedly “harmed” by their employment at the NASWA. Those employees worked substantial hours during a busy season and made money. The NASWA was fined $12,000 for offering H-2B employees upgrades to their hired positions, enabling them to earn more money by moving them from housekeeping to more profitable waitstaff and bartender positions, not realizing it was “outside” the approved job classifications. An additional fine was assessed for wording in the employment advertisement, which was unclear about specific details on pay ranges and overtime — which employees worked and were paid appropriate overtime wages.
For 85 years, the NASWA has employed hundreds of locals as well as foreigners when not enough U.S. citizens to applied for service jobs. The NASWA has provided housing, transportation and more wages than H-2B employees could likely earn elsewhere and then found some staff employment at Florida resorts in the winter, bringing them back north for the summer. The company does not withhold wages or mistreat employees and does not favor foreign over domestic employees. They are not taking jobs from Americans, but when insufficient numbers of Americans apply to fill all the positions, it forced the resort years ago to go outside the U.S., including Puerto Rico. The NASWA hired people under the H-2B law, learned some rules were broken, paid fines and continued to run their business. (I wonder why the DOL waited a year to send its press release of “old news?”)
The NASWA gathers together generations of families with fond memories of the resort, which continues to bring outstanding entertainment, food and beverage to the Lakes Region. The resort and Makris family have also been very generous in charitable giving to the community — helping veterans, the fire department and others — including their staff. For this, they got scrutiny and the ire of many visitors who do not understand the whole story.
In reporting news, it seems a local business was condemned in trying to serve its community. Please share this real story, so those who judged The NASWA from your article may understand the truth.
Marilyn DeMartini is a public relations consultant and freelance writer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.