Not so fast, protesters said of plans to sell the Hynes Convention Center.
Hundreds of Back Bay workers rallied outside the Hynes Wednesday to protest Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to sell the center, saying that would rob thousands of workers of their jobs and impact a key engine that drives business in the Back Bay.
Members of UNITE HERE Local 26, hotel workers and others marched in the rain from Copley Square to the convention center, beating drums and chanting, “Save the Hynes, save our Boston!”
“We think it would be very shortsighted to sell the Hynes Convention Center,” said Carlos Aramayo, the union’s president. “The convention center brings business to the Back Bay and creates excellent jobs for black, brown and immigrant workers in the surrounding businesses and restaurants.”
Baker initially tried to sell the 6-acre, state-owned convention center prior to the pandemic but put off those plans once COVID hit.
In recent months, the governor has said he would ask the state Legislature to approve an economic development package that would include selling the Hynes, saying the property might be better used to benefit the local economy.
“It’s like, oh man, it’s all over again, and right after the pandemic,” said Donnell Beverly, 45, who handles all of the liquor the convention center sells.
While some of the union’s detractors have argued that since the pandemic, the Hynes has been largely unused space, Beverly and others say it’s premature to say it should be sold.
“I hope this opens people’s eyes and ears. This is not just about selling a property,” he said. “This is about people’s livelihoods.”
Multiple emails to Baker’s spokespeople went unreturned Wednesday.
Toula Savvidis, 58, a banquet bartender at the Sheraton Hotel, was one of hundreds of hotel workers who joined the protest because they said the convention center and Back Bay hotels are inextricably linked.
“We as hotel workers were devastated by the pandemic. We were out of work for 18 months but happy to come back — and now this. It’s like a slap in the face,” said Toula Savvidis, 58, who has worked at the Sheraton for 22 years, enough to buy a home, support a family and look forward to a pension when she retires. “We feel the instability.”
City Council President Ed Flynn, who attended the protest, said he opposes selling the Hynes for housing or anything else.
“The workers here play a critical role in our city,” Flynn said. “It’s a clear path to the middle class. We do need housing, but we have the opportunity to keep good-paying jobs right here.”
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