‘It’s at a time when we need it the most’: With Marathon back, hotels look forward to a busy weekend, but challenges remain

At the Revere Hotel Boston Common, excitement for the Boston Marathon was building all week. Runners were checking in. Employees decorated the lobby in yellow and blue. The Rebel’s Guild restaurant kitchen was planning a Sunday night pasta dinner.

It wasn’t quite like Marathon weekends of the past — those April days, before the pandemic, that kicked off Boston’s busy spring and summer tourism seasons. But the hotel was nearing full occupancy for the weekend, said general manager Mark Fischer, a welcome sign that the bump in leisure travel seen over the summer had not yet subsided.

“I can feel the buzz in my hotel lobby of runners who have started to head into the city, as well as friends and family coming to cheer them on,” he said. “We just have to keep the momentum going.”

Runner Kelly O’Rourke (center) of Minneapolis, wore his Boston Marathon jacket while shopping with his wife, Tina (right), at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street in Boston on Thursday.
Runner Kelly O’Rourke (center) of Minneapolis, wore his Boston Marathon jacket while shopping with his wife, Tina (right), at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street in Boston on Thursday.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Marathon weekend has always been a busy one for local hotels. Throw in a slew of other events — Red Sox playoff games, pandemic-postponed weddings that are finally happening, people just looking for a change of scene — and occupancy is up, at least for now, Fischer said.

Though hard data is not yet available for the fall, the Boston hotel market has been one of the slowest to recover in the country, according to data from Pinnacle Advisory Group, a Boston-based hospitality consultant.

Year-to-date revenue is down about 70 percent from 2019 levels. Business travel has yet to rebound, meaning hotels are relying on leisure travelers. Still, September was stronger than analysts expected, and October could follow suit — thanks to athletic events, university parent weekends, and warm weather extending vacation seasons.

”It’s a shot in the arm for the market, and it’s at a time when we need it the most,” said Sebastian Colella, vice president at Pinnacle Advisory Group.

Blue and yellow balloons decorated the lobby at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.
Blue and yellow balloons decorated the lobby at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Events like the Marathon and a revived fall sports scene have given hotels the guests they dearly needed to help make up for lost business travel, said Chris Allen, general manager of Boston Marriott Newton on Commonwealth Avenue, a mile and a half from Heartbreak Hill.

This weekend they are just about full, he said.

“Our weekends, Fridays and Saturdays, have been the bread and butter this fall, and even throughout the summer,” he said. “When [the Delta variant] started to surge in July-ish, that didn’t deem to put the brakes on the leisure travel as much as it kept the business travel at bay.”

But as with so many other areas of the economy right now, some workers are not benefiting from the rise in business, said Carlos Aramayo, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, a hospitality workers union. His members have only seen about 60 percent of their hours restored, Aramayo estimated, though the number may be higher this weekend. But whole departments at large hotels — typically people who worked in room service, dining, or lounges — remain at home.

“We strongly believe that in this moment, the interests of our members, the workers who want to get back on the job, align with the interests of our guests, who want to have a full service experiences at hotels,” Aramayo said. “From my perspective, a lot of the hotels in Boston are owned by real estate investment trusts …. Those are places that have been very aggressive at not reopening stuff. I think a lot of those financial entities are making these decisions without thinking of the guests.”

Officer Garcia took a picture of runners Tammy Kronebusch and Deb McClellan near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston on Thursday.
Officer Garcia took a picture of runners Tammy Kronebusch and Deb McClellan near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston on Thursday.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Among those employees is Zalinda Singh, who worked for in-room dining services at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport from 2015 until 2020, when she lost her job because of the pandemic.

“It’s been my favorite place to work,” Singh said. “You get a sense of, I just made this person’s day much better. Even if they had a bad experience somewhere else, I can make it better.”

Singh lives in East Boston with her husband and 11-year-old daughter. They lost a family member to COVID, and she and a few other relatives got sick. Since federal unemployment assistance for people laid off during the pandemic ran out in September, she said, it’s been hard to make sure her daughter isn’t too worried about money.

Singh would love to go back to work, she said — she misses her co-workers and interacting with guests, making sure their trays are exactly right so she can bring a bit of joy to their days.

“We’re patiently waiting,” Singh said. “We’re feeling that we’re long overdue.”


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043.

Harvard Dining Workers Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract

The union representing Harvard’s dining workers, UNITE HERE Local 26, overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year contract with the University Thursday, securing compensation increases and job protections for current and laid-off employees after four months of negotiations and engagement with a federal mediator.

The vote was 99.45 percent in favor of the tentative agreement the two parties reached last week. The contract includes a 15 percent increase in wages over the duration of the contract and increases to summer stipends, as well as a guarantee of working hours for current dining workers and jobs for some recently laid-off employees. The agreement also maintains the health care plan Local 26 won in 2016 after going on strike for 22 daysrocking campus.

“This contract makes sure Harvard’s dining hall workers are part of the economic recovery from COVID-19,” Michael Kramer, executive vice president of Local 26, said in a written statement.

Out of 364 votes, 362 union members voted in favor of the contract, easily clearing the simple majority threshold required for ratification.

Harvard University Dining Services Managing Director Smitha S. H. Haneef shared the news with HUDS management Thursday evening.

“I am looking forward to the future with and for you to build our food systems and hospitality,” she wrote in an email obtained by The Crimson. “This is a big day for all of us, as one HUDS team, to progressively advance Harvard mission through our service.”

Under the new agreement, wages will be increased retroactive to June 21, with annual raises between 2.75 and 3.25 percent totaling $4.03 per hour over the five years, according to the union’s contract summary. The summer stipend, which pays HUDS employees over the vacation regardless of number of shifts they work, will also gradually increase from $3,000 to $3,800 by the end of the agreement.

The contract also maintains the union’s current health care coverage, which was a landmark achievement in its last round of contract negotiations. In 2016, Harvard agreed to pay insurance copays on the University staff and hourly insurance plans for HUDS employees and created a new premium contribution tier for employees who make less than $55,000 annually.

Additionally, HUDS will maintain the “authorized hours of every current HUDS employee” on the payroll as of Dec. 1, according to the union’s contract summary.

The protections against layoffs and hours reductions come after the union alleged last month HUDS management was planning to cut 20 percent of full-time dining positions in the residential houses after reviewing the University’s proposed schedules for the next academic years. Harvard has since withdrawn those schedules.

Edwin J. Hinspeter, a Leverett House shop steward, said he believes the job security side letter is unprecedented for Local 26.

“It’s a really good contract for us,” he said after casting his ballot. “I believe the job security language — we’ve never had language like that before.”

Willie H. Moore, an assistant cook at Harvard Law School, said he voted yes because he wants to maintain his current position until retirement.

“I’ve been there 22 years,” he said. “I would love to retire there and continue my life.”

HUDS will also offer positions to employees formerly contracted from dining management company Restaurant Associates who were laid off from the Graduate School of Design and the Law School earlier this year, according to the Local 26 contract summary.

According to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton, Harvard is seeking to fill more than 50 positions, and former RA employees are welcome to apply.

Claudia J. Escobar, a former catering employee at HLS who was laid off from her position, said the contract may allow her to return to work as a Harvard employee.

“It is our right to [go] back to work because we [were] working during the pandemic, and I think we deserve to go back to work,” Escobar said after voting to ratify the contract.

Hilary J. Flores-Hebert, a Business School dining worker and volunteer at the polling station, said she decided to volunteer to help other members gain a contract that guaranteed greater job security. In addition, she said she supports the continued health care benefits and compensation increases.

“I think that’s super important, given that we’re essential workers, that we put so much of our time and effort to contribute to this community,” she said.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at cara.chang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

Terminated Marriott Copley staff’s new jobs show a working class being forced further down the economic ladder

Beatriz Torres almost made it. She worked for 23 years at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, cleaning and serving food to VIPs in the concierge lounge, and planned to stay for two more so she would qualify for free stays at Marriott hotels for life.

But last September, Torres lost her job, along with half the hotel’s staff, when business plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The property is slowly coming back to life, but Torres, 70, isn’t part of it; nor are most of the 229 hourly employees terminated along with her. Torres now works at Starbucks at Logan Airport, making roughly $7 an hour less than she did at the Marriott.

Torres was among scores of employees, many of them immigrants, forced out after working at the city’s second largest hotel for years — decades, in some cases — making upward of $20 an hour, enough for some of them to buy houses, send children to college, and support family members back home. Nearly a year later, many have found new jobs, but often at reduced wages, without the steady hours and retirement benefits they had before. At the same time, Marriott Copley has contracted out its sports bar and restaurant, Champions, to the Yard House, which is paying far less for some jobs than the hotel did.

From the outset, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the country’s lower-wage workforce, particularly those in the service industry. And as the dust settles, it’s becoming clear that many corporations seeking to recover losses are doing so on the backs of their workers, pushing them out, and down the economic ladder, as they look to cut labor costs permanently.

A woman read a paper handed out by a fired hotel worker in front of the Marriott Copley in August.
A woman read a paper handed out by a fired hotel worker in front of the Marriott Copley in August. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

Torres, who is originally from Mexico, said her meager savings are gone after being out of work for 16 months, as are her dreams of spending her retirement visiting family in Texas and Spain. So far, she’s managed to pay her bills and hold on to the room she rents from an El Salvadoran family in Everett, but she’s fearful for her future.

“It’s like a nightmare that I’m living,” Torres said. “What is going to happen to me?”

Marriott Copley did not respond to requests for comment.

Like service workers around the country, the terminated hotel employees have been caught in the crosshairs of the COVID-19 crisis.

Immigrant women with limited English skills and no higher education who worked in food service and accommodation suffered more job losses during the pandemic than any other group in Massachusetts, according to a report released in March by the Workforce Solutions Group, a statewide advocacy coalition.

Hotels in Boston, where more than two-thirds of hospitality workers are people of color, are still reeling from the pandemic. As of July, hotel room revenues in the area were down more than 70 percent year-to-date compared to 2019, according to Pinnacle Advisory Group — the slowest recovery after San Francisco and New York among large markets.

This is a critical moment for the industry, said Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. As travel continues to languish, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers could be at risk without federal aid, he said, noting that in Boston, properties have received little to no pandemic relief.

Across Massachusetts, employment in the hospitality and leisure sector was down 20 percent in July compared to two years ago, according to Pinnacle, by far the hardest hit industry in the state.

Hmad Birali, a former dishwasher at the Marriott Copley, recently landed another hospitality job, as a housekeeper at a small hotel in Brookline. But he’s now making just $15 an hour, with no 401(k) match and no guarantee of full-time hours. He recently applied for several jobs at the Marriott Copley, where postings for Yard House dishwashers are listed at $17-$20 an hour — less than the $25 an hour he was making at the Marriott, but more than he’s making now. So far, there’s been no response.

Birali, 51, is worried that he won’t be able to afford the rent on the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife in Revere, or to send money to his mother and 15-year-old son in Morocco.

“They used me,” said Birali, speaking in Arabic through a translator, noting that he worked nights for five years, never called in sick, and did any job managers asked of him. “In the end they just threw us in the street.”

Hmad Birali, a former employee at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, prepared dinner for himself in his apartment in Revere.
Hmad Birali, a former employee at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, prepared dinner for himself in his apartment in Revere.NATHAN KLIMA FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/THE BOSTON GLOBE

Last year, essential workers were hailed as heroes, said Darlene Lombos, head of the Greater Boston Labor Council, and now, with corporate profits squeezed or nonexistent, they’re expendable — that is, an expense that can be cut. On Labor Day, the council held a rally in front of the Marriott Copley to condemn what Lombos called “the throwing away of Black and brown workers who are actually risking their lives to save ours and keep us going as a society.”

Payroll is the industry’s biggest expense, said Sebastian Colella, a Boston-based vice president at Pinnacle Advisory Group, and considering the robust staffing levels and decent wages at many properties, reining in labor costs is the first thing they’re going to look at. And those changes could be permanent, he said: “That’s something that might stick.

Indeed, the chief executive of Host Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Marriott Copley, told investors in earnings calls that the company viewed the pandemic as “an opportunity to redefine the hotel operating model” that could result in major cost savings. Host executives have mentioned eliminating front desk staff, reducing restaurant offerings, and doing away with daily room cleanings as part of reexamining minimum “base labor standards.”

Host did not respond to requests for comment.

In some ways, economic downturns give corporations both the impetus and the cover to restructure their workforces, said Randy Albelda, a recently retired economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“It’s an old story in the United States,” she said. “Workers who have essentially scratched their way up, and corporations that have the upper hand in terms of holding the power to hire and fire and to negotiate wages.”

A Marriott employee recognition certificate given to Hmad Birali hung on a wall in his apartment in Revere.
A Marriott employee recognition certificate given to Hmad Birali hung on a wall in his apartment in Revere.NATHAN KLIMA FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/THE BOSTON GLOBE

Several hotel companies, including Marriott and Hilton, have already ended automatic daily housekeeping services at many properties — a practice that, if implemented industrywide, would slash the room attendant workforce by up to 39 percent, according to estimates by Unite Here, the national hospitality workers’ union. Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26 in Boston, which has been helping the non-union Marriott Copley workers, said this push to streamline staffs will not only lead to fewer jobs, it means the workers who remain could have more work piled on them.

One woman who still works at the Marriott Copley said that the hotel is so shorthanded that some employees are being asked to work six days a week. Workers are also on “pins and needles” about getting fired, said the woman, who asked not to be identified to protect her job security.

“I’m afraid because it might happen to me,” she said. “The managers are saying we’re safe, but look what they did to the other workers.”

Even before the COVID crisis, hotels had been seeking to cut labor costs as they fought off increased competition from home-sharing companies like Airbnb, said Isaac Wanasika, a management professor at the University of Northern Colorado, and properties are now focused even more on “reducing the human footprint.” A number of other local hotels got rid of workers during the pandemic, with no guarantees they’d be rehired, including the Revere and the Quincy Marriott. (The Four Seasons and Nine Zero also terminated staff, but later agreed to recall them when business returned.) A number of hotels around the country have also permanently reduced their staffs, including the Marriott Marquis in New York, which ousted 850 employees and is outsourcing its restaurant and catering operations.

Some who were let go from the Marriott Copley see a disconcerting pattern in the people hired to replace them. The five concierge lounge attendants, all immigrant women ranging from age 50 to 70, including Torres, filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for “age, race, and nationality discrimination” after they applied for and were rejected for jobs at the hotel’s new M Club lounge, jobs they said the general manager had told them before the pandemic would be theirs. Of the nine people hired to work there, all of whom previously worked at Champions, seven are white, according to the complaint, while their age range skews just slightly younger, from mid-30s to mid-60s.

“We were all immigrants and people of color, but they chose to make their lounge attendants younger and whiter,” said Patricia Tchoumi, 53, who is from Cameroon and made $23 an hour at the Marriott Copley, where she worked for 17 years.

Tchoumi just started orientation as a room service attendant at the Boston Omni Hotel at the Seaport, which opened last week. Her hourly wage is far lower than before, though she’ll also get tips. But she doesn’t know if she’ll get full-time hours; last week, she only got 15. Tchoumi is anxious to catch up on the mortgage at her three-family home in Lynn, where her unemployed tenants have been unable to pay rent.

Aside from the M Club staffers, it appears that most of the 50 Champions workers have not been rehired. The Yard House did not respond to questions about bringing back hotel staff.

Ramona Pena, 59, was a cook at Champions for 16 years, and has yet to find another job. She’s been applying in restaurants and stores, but worries that her age and limited English are holding her back. Her fiance also worked at the Marriott Copley, in security, but has been out on disability. Their hotel jobs allowed them to buy a house in Taunton in 2015, but now that her unemployment has run out, Pena, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, is worried about how they’ll pay the mortgage and support her parents.

When she found out she was being let go, she felt betrayed. “I felt it in my stomach, in my head. I still feel bad,” she said in Spanish through a translator, starting to cry. “I was definitely planning on working there until I retired.”

Labor advocates decry the outsourcing of staff jobs, noting that it allows companies to shift responsibilities to outside contractors and makes labor standards more difficult to enforce. But the immediate payoff is hard for companies to resist, said Wanasika, the University of Northern Colorado professor. “Outsourcing is an effective short-term strategy to reduce costs and risk,” he said.

Tahira Dzindo, a hostess at Champions for 14 years, came from Bosnia in 2001 with her husband and two young children and two backpacks, part of a wave of refugees fleeing the war torn country. They spoke no English and had no money, but Dzindo, 45, and her husband got jobs and eventually bought a house in Malden and put their daughter through college. “I was working double shifts,” she said. “Double, double, double to make as much as I could.”

No one called Dzindo about working at the Yard House, and she didn’t bother applying, considering hostess jobs are listed at $16 an hour — $8 an hour less than what she made there.

“That’s not going to get me anywhere,” said Dzindo, who is one of the lucky ones, recently landing a hostess job at a hotel restaurant making slightly more than she did at Champions. “[People] want to work, but they don’t want to work for nothing.”


Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.

‘We’re Part of Harvard Too’: Dining Workers’ Union Flyers Campus, Concerned Over Proposed Hours Cut

Fearing reductions in the dining staff’s hours in Harvard College’s residential houses, UNITE HERE Local 26, the union representing dining employees at the University, has solicited the support of students through a flyer campaign as undergraduates return to campus.

The flyers allege Harvard is “using austerity politics to marginalize essential workers” after collecting tuition during the pandemic and growing its endowment through the fiscal year 2020.

“At the same time, Harvard is pushing food service workers to the sidelines by slashing full-time jobs and cutting hours – even though more students are on campus than ever,” the flyer reads.

In July, Harvard University Dining Services announced changes to its menus and hours beginning this fall, including full breakfast service at Annenberg and Quincy House, longer breakfast and dinner hours, and more kosher, halal, vegan, and vegetarian options. HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin wrote the new service model is designed “to continue to meet the changing needs of students and our community.”

“These updates will necessitate some modifications to staff schedules, but as we have shared with the union, those adjustments will be undertaken over time, with union input and in accordance with the union contract,” she wrote.

At the union’s request, Harvard shared preliminary schedules with Local 26 for the coming academic years, according to Martin.

Local 26 President Carlos Aramayo said in an interview that the union analyzed those proposed schedules and determined they would amount to a 20 percent cut in the number of full-time dining employees in residential houses and an 8 percent cut in total hours available.

Martin wrote it was “premature” to comment on the union’s analysis, especially as the preliminary schedules would not fully go into effect until the 2022-23 academic year. HUDS is currently piloting the new menus it announced in July so that the union and students can give feedback on the new model, according to Martin.

“It would be premature to comment on the proposed service models and draft schedules that have been shared with Local 26 during these negotiations,” Martin wrote. “As the University has shared with Local 26, these models and schedules are being piloted, and not implemented until fall 2022, with feedback and input from the union over the course of this academic year.”

Harvard committed to not laying off any current HUDS employee while the new model is being discussed this year, according to Martin. She added all current employees affected by the changes next year will be offered comparable positions, which HUDS believes will be possible given current projections.

Aramayo said he believes any cuts to workers’ hours contradicts Harvard’s commitment to an equitable and sustained recovery that supports its Black and brown workers.

“What we’re seeing is proposed changes to the schedule that will leave a fifth of the people who have full time positions in the dining halls working below full-time,” he said. “With Harvard putting out these proposed changes to the schedules and to the meals, a fifth of the people with full-time jobs in dining services are now facing profound uncertainty about the future, and they want to do something about it.”

Hakim Akendar, a pantry steward in Winthrop House who has worked at Harvard for more than 20 years, said he is afraid of losing 10 hours in shifts, meaning he would no longer be considered a full-time employee.

“I was hopeful that we’re going to move on to better days, especially [since] we have more students coming to Winthrop,” he said. “I was hopeful that I’m going to put Covid behind me, move on to better days. I’m shocked that this is what’s happening.”

Reduced hours would strain his finances and his ability to support his family, Akendar added.

Charlene V. Almeida, a dining employee at Quincy House with more than two decades of experience at HUDS, wrote in a statement that she might not be able to make rent in Cambridge or feed her children on reduced hours. Citing Harvard’s financial stability during the pandemic, she called on the University to protect dining staff and their families who are “part of Harvard too.”

“Harvard claims to be committed to this community,” she wrote. “They should be making sure we all recover from COVID-19.”

The Harvard College Student Labor Action Movement helped Local 26 flyer campus. It is also holding a teach-in to support the dining workers on September 4.

“Once again, the richest university in the world is attempting to cut HUDS worker jobs and hours,” the organization wrote in a statement. “Rather than guarantee dining hall workers good paying and stable jobs, Harvard is making their futures uncertain with the threats of additional cuts. All this in the midst of a global pandemic and while our dining halls are short-staffed as it is.”

Local 26 ultimately hopes to avoid any cuts in hours for its employees.

“At the very least, a restoration of the number of hours that we had in 2019, if not an increase, is essential to have, from our perspective, a fair and equitable recovery coming out of Covid and to allay the fears and concerns of our members,” Aramayo said. “We’re always willing to discuss that with the University.”

The union’s shop stewards “are going to look at every possible action that we could take to punctuate how important this is to get resolved for our members over there,” he added.

In 2016 during their last round of contract negotiations, hundreds of HUDS workers went on strike for 22 days over compensation, health care, and job security, ultimately reaching a tentative agreement with the University.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at cara.chang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

Terminated Marriott Copley workers launch hotel boycott

A group of workers terminated last fall by the Boston Marriott Copley Place are launching a boycott against the hotel, escalating their fight to be reinstated as the summer travel season approaches and the beleaguered hospitality industry struggles to recover.

The employees, backed by the local hospitality workers union, are calling on guests and organizations to take their business elsewhere until the hotel agrees to reinstate the 230 workers who were let go. The workers are also demanding full severance pay instead of the reduced packages they were offered.

The boycott, set to be announced at a rally in front of the Marriott Copley on Friday morning, comes at a crucial moment for the hotel industry, which is starting to show signs of life as people get vaccinated and plan vacations for the first time in more than a year. The pandemic has devastated properties in Boston, which suffered bigger drops in revenue per available room than any other market besides New York and isn’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

As the second-largest hotel in Boston, and one of the few with a ballroom big enough to host more than 1,000 people, the Marriott Copley hosts many galas and dinners. GLAD, the Boston-based legal advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, hosts a fund-raiser there every year, including one scheduled for November. Since learning about the boycott, GLAD has taken action, executive director Janson Wu said in an e-mail: “We have let the Marriott know that we are not comfortable hosting our annual fundraising dinner there should the status quo continue. We hope that they will change course and do right by their employees and the community.”

Workers also plan to reach out to politicians, religious groups, and other worker advocacy groups to promote the boycott, which could be relatively easy to comply with given that travel isn’t expected to fully rebound right away. That means there will be more rooms available than usual, giving guests plenty of options to choose from, said Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26, which doesn’t represent the Marriott Copley workers but has been supporting their efforts. The boycott is a serious commitment for workers, who will continue picketing at the hotel, and it’s crucial they are front and center delivering the message, Aramayo said.

Local 26 said it has prevailed in all four boycotts it launched over the past decade: at three Boston-area Hyatt hotels starting in 2009, when housekeepers were fired after training their replacements, which resulted in a million-dollar settlement; and at Le Méridien Boston Cambridge in 2012, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Boston-Cambridge in 2014, and Hilton Boston Back Bay in 2016 — all demanding a fair process to join the union.

In 2014, Market Basket customers boycotted the grocery chain — an action encouraged by local lawmakers — in support of workers who walked off the job after their beloved CEO was ousted; after more than six weeks of protests, the CEO was reinstated.

“This is one of the worst examples we’ve seen of using the pandemic to cynically make permanent changes to the workforce,” he said. “And I think hopefully once the traveling public is aware of that, and given that there are going to be a lot of deals out there, they’ll choose to spend their dollar elsewhere until this gets resolved.”

Alan Smith, general manager of the Marriott Copley Place, declined to comment on the boycott.

After reopening in August, the hotel quickly moved to permanently lay off half its workforce, including Adi Fejzic, 52, whohas worked at the hotel for 19 years, after fleeing the war in Bosnia and arriving in Boston with nothing. He started in housekeeping and became a banquet server a few years later, regularly working double or triple shifts and sometimes staying overnight at the hotel in order to get up before dawn and start again the next day. One year, when 700 Muslim guests from Malaysia were staying at the hotel during Ramadan, Fejzic said, he worked through the night to serve meals to guests who were fasting during the day.

“Sometimes I couldn’t see my kids for four or five days because I’m working always,” he said.

Fejzic and his wife, who is a housekeeper at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, which is also a Marriott property, put their son through college at UMass-Amherst and were paying their daughter’s tuition there until they were both furloughed.

Fejzic and his wife, who is a union member with a 30-month right of recall to get her job back, are also struggling to pay the mortgage on their condo in Melrose. They’ve started to sell furniture and clothes, he said.

“I feel really like a piece of garbage,” he said.

Fejzic supports the boycott and is grateful to be doing something that could help him and his coworkers get their jobs back. The Marriott Copley was his first and only job in the United States, and he doesn’t know what else he can do to support his family.

“Who is going to take me at 52 years now?” he said. “I’m really scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.