Local unions join picket line to protest Boston Marriott Hotel


Labor and aviation union members joined the picket line outside Boston Marriott Copley Place Friday to protest the corporation’s hiring of out-of-state contractors and workers instead of Boston labor union workers. Photo credit Olivia Becraft.

Olivia Becraft, news correspondent

Labor and aviation union members, along with elected leaders, joined the picket line formed by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, or AFA-CWA, outside Boston Marriott Copley Place Friday to protest the corporation’s hiring of out-of-state contractors and workers to undertake a renovation project at the hotel instead of Boston labor union workers. 

Marriott Copley Place hired Commercial Renovation Service, or CRS, a construction contractor company, to oversee a renovation at the Boston hotel. The Florida-based company is causing outrage among local union laborers by not only employing non-union workers from out of state, but also paying said workers wages below state standards, according to a letter Tuesday signed by the AFA-CWA. 

Protesters in the picket line chanted “Shame on CRS,” and held signs reading, “The CRS does not conform to community standards for wages and fringe benefits.”

Other unions that stood in solidarity with Marriott Copley Place staff in their strike included members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, or Carpenters; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35, or IUPAT DC 35; UNITE HERE Local 26 and Massachusetts Building Trades Council. The protest spanned the width of Huntington Ave. 

The AFA-CWA signed letter was in support of the labor unions and reads,“This is unacceptable. It betrays the working people of Boston and undermines the safety standards ensured by skilled labor.” 

Sarah Nelson, the president of the AFA-CWA, attended the rally and expressed the organization’s support. 

“We stay in these hotels, and we expect to have [Boston labor union workers] on the job,” Nelson said in a speech. 

Within the letter, the union declared they will no longer be doing business with the Boston Marriott Copley Place until the corporation agrees to the union’s demands. 

One hundred eighty thousand flight attendants represented by pilot and flight attendant unions will be moving their flight crews out of Boston Marriott Copley Place, which currently makes up 30% of Marriott Copley Place’s revenue. Once Nelson finished her speech, Mayor Michelle Wu delivered hers. 

“This is an opportunity for all of us to show what Boston is,” Wu said. “For all of us, what Boston can be. And what we demand for all of our families here: decent wages, benefits that we all deserve and the chance to do the work to keep your family going. That is all we’ve ever asked from the Marriott and they can’t even rise to the occasion in this moment in the pandemic to do the right thing.” 

This is not the first time Wu has joined forces with Boston’s labor unions to protest the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel. Wu stood in front of the Marriott on Labor Day 2021 after the hotel fired 230 of its employees in 2020, telling them to reapply for their positions. 

When the Marriott re-opened in August 2021 after closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel permanently laid off half of its workforce. After having their jobs terminated, many of the individuals affected received less than half of the severance pay they had expected to receive after decades of work. 

In response to Wu’s involvement in the movement, Rile Rhodes, the business manager for North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Local Union 327, explained in an interview that labor unions need to realize that “[Wu] is going to be great for labor.” 

Bert Durand, the communications director for the local union of the Carpenters, agreed and said in an interview that having government officials attend the strike and show support means a lot to union members. 

“It’s really important when political leaders speak out to protect standards they fight for,” Durand said. 

After Wu delivered her speech, she participated in the rally alongside some people who also protested in 2020. Jamie McNeil is one of those supporters. McNeil is known to his fellow union members as an individual devoted to seeking change. 

“The Marriott fired all their workers in the fall of 2020. We are asking them to hire all of the workers on seniority and pay them full severance,” McNeil said. 

Many of the people taking part in the protest were labor union workers with families in need of support. Robert Jelley, an organizer for IUPAT DC 35 explained that the wages being supplied to labor union and non-labor union workers are not enough to support a life in Boston.

“When you see our signs, and they say ‘community standards,’ that’s what we’re talking about,” Jelley said. “We’re not talking about just union workers, we’re fighting for the rights of non-union workers as well.” 

Boston’s average rent is climbing, making it difficult for workers to support their families on lower wages.

“How do they expect us to do it?” Jelley said. “Raise the standards, raise the wage, allow people to have a good life. We are not trying to get people anything more than what they deserve.”