Bay State Banner: Initiative trains black workers for Boston-area hotel jobs

Mayor Martin Walsh joined members of Boston’s hospitality union, Local 26, and executives from several local hotels yesterday to celebrate the graduation of the first African-American hospitality training class from Local 26’s Best Corp Hospitality Training Center. At the event, Local 26 announced that the class would be named the “Mel King Empowerment Program” in honor of longtime community activist and former state legislator Mel King.

“I commend Local 26 hotel workers for standing up for fairness and equality for all of Boston’s residents,” Walsh said. “Together, the union and their hotel employer partners are making strides to ensure that people of color have access to life-changing career paths in the hotel industry.”

The class is a four-week “Intro to Hospitality” training that includes job shadowing at several of the best hotels in Boston. After graduates complete the class, Local 26 works with hotels to place graduates into hotel jobs.

“Union hotel jobs are good jobs, with low-cost full-coverage healthcare, high wages, and a pension,” said Brian Lang, President of Local 26. “We know that forming a partnership with the best hotel employers in New England to recruit, train and hire African Americans is good for the hospitality industry and is good for the neighborhoods of Boston. We’re proud to see members of the first graduating class start their union jobs this month.”

Local 26 negotiated diversity language into its contracts with 29 Boston area hotels after noticing a decline in African-American representation in the hospitality industry. Local 26’s “Best Corp Hospitality Training Center” coordinates with the hotels on a training class for African Americans.

“I’ve been a cook for more than 25 years, but it’s always been a struggle to make ends meet,” said Bobby Oliver, 49, a resident of Dorchester who graduated from the class last month. “During the hospitality training class, I was able to shadow employees at the Westin Waterfront, and now I’ve got an interview with the General Manager. Getting a union job with higher wages and benefits will really change the lives of my three kids.”

Local 26 represents 7,000 workers in the hospitality industries in the Greater Boston Area. Members include workers of hotels, restaurants, university dining services, the Boston Convention Centers, Fenway Park and Logan International Airport.