Former employees boycott Marriott Copley
Union assists more than 200 workers’ fight to get back jobs
Kiki Patino had worked at the Marriott Copley for more than 16 years before she was fired without warning in September.
“The main thing that I got was anxiety,” she said during a recent phone call with the Banner. “At that moment, I was the main supporter for my whole family.”
Patino was one of more than 230 workers at the Marriott Copley whose employment was terminated last fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s now joined her former coworkers and partnered with Unite Here Local 26 to call for a boycott and demand that the Marriott reinstate its former employees.
The hotel is one of the few in the city that has not recalled workers. Patino and her fellow employees also were shocked to discover that their severance pay was cut by half or more when their positions were terminated.
After months of unresponsiveness from the Marriott corporation, Patino and her former coworkers decided to escalate their campaign. The boycott launched outside of the Marriott Copley on Saturday morning, and union advocates like Local 26 President Carlos Aramayo rallied to express support.
“In the middle of a pandemic, the Marriott corporation made a choice,” Aramayo said. “They chose to terminate the employment of hundreds of workers at this hotel. To permanently fire these workers, cynically, in the middle of a pandemic, and on top of it, to cut their severance packages.”
Aramayo added that the choice did nothing but “serve the pockets of the owners,” rather than to do what’s right.
“What’s right is to do what these workers are demanding, which is that they be returned to work once business returns,” he said. “The demand is so simple. Dozens of other hotels in the city of Boston have agreed to this. The demand is that when the jobs come back, we come back.”
Aramayo told the Banner that various workers sought help from Boston’s Local 26 after their jobs were terminated.
“They felt like not only was the mass termination in the middle of the pandemic grossly unjust, but that also the cutting of severance on top of it was adding insult to injury,” he said. “They said they wanted to refuse the offer the company was giving them and they wanted to demand to have their jobs back.”
Unite Here Local 26 does not represent the Marriott Copley employees, but Aramayo said he believes in ensuring fair treatment for all workers in the industry.
“When they asked for our support, we said of course, whatever you need,” he said.
Workers originally petitioned the company internally and demanded to talk to administrators behind the scenes, said Aramayo. When that didn’t work, they went public with their story. Now, after more than six months, there’s still “radio silence” from the hotel.
Managers at the Marriott still have not commented on the situation.
Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn attended the rally. He said the Marriott’s actions were an “embarrassment” to the city of Boston.
“It’s unconscionable for this hotel to do that to workers during a pandemic,” he told the Banner. “They deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and dignity.”
Aramayo noted that other hotels around the city have “reversed course” on their original decisions and recalled workers. Workers like Patino are holding onto hope that the Marriott does the same.
“Business is coming back. Little by little, it’s coming back,” she told the Banner. “Boston is a busy city. We know that it’s going to take a while to get back, but they’re going to need the experience that we have put into the hotel.”
Patino said she was loyal to the Marriott throughout her 16 years there. She jumped at the opportunity to take back-to-back shifts and even work extra hours if needed. But in September, Patino got a cold phone call from her former manager saying that her position was eliminated. Her severance pay was cut in half.
Patino feared for the future, especially since her family was covered under her health insurance. She had bills to pay, including childcare for her 4-year-old son.
“The anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen or what the future was going to be … I had it inside,” she said. “But at the same time, I had to hold it and hide it, because you don’t want to show it to your kids.”
It was a couple of months before Patino partnered with Unite Here Local 26. While working at the Marriott, she said, workers were essentially prohibited from talking about unions.
“We didn’t know as much as we know now about the union, about how they look out for workers,” she said. “Then little by little, we had to gather the people that were starting to realize how unfair the company was treating us when they fired us and the way they did it.”
Patino said that the Marriott recently released a new job listing. Out of curiosity, she applied. It’s been two weeks, and once again, she’s heard nothing.
Other workers at the Saturday rally included Shirley Tam, who had worked at the company for more than 25 years before being terminated.
“I expected that this company I had been a part of for so many years would take care of me and all of my coworkers during this difficult time,” she said. “Marriott has thrown us out in the most heartless way possible, to take our jobs away and to take away a fair severance for us.”
Tam urged the crowd to stand in solidarity with the boycotters.
“I’m here to tell each one of my coworkers: Do not be afraid. We are going to stick together,” she said. “And I’m here to tell every single guest and customer: Do not give your money to a heartless hotel.”