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Hotel workers picket Boston Hilton over right to form union

Hotel workers picketed outside the Hilton Boston Downtown in the Financial District yesterday, marching and chanting to protest what organizers say is an antiunion campaign being conducted by hotel management.

The employees recently notified management that they wanted to form a union. Since then, according to the head of the local hospitality workers union, managers have been meeting with workers to discourage them from organizing.

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“They’re snubbing their noses at their workers and they’re snubbing their noses at the community of Boston,’’ said Brian Lang, president of Unite Here Local 26.

The hotel’s parent company, Hilton Worldwide, denied that it was dissuading workers from unionizing.

“Our staff has the right to choose to freely decide if they want a union or not,’’ said spokesman Bruce Rubin. “We will uphold their right to vote in private and cast a secret ballot just the way every single American who goes to the polls [does].’’

Between 50 and 100 people at a time walked the picket line throughout the day yesterday. The Hilton Boston Downtown workers say they want the same pay and benefits as union employees at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport.

At the airport hotel, housekeepers make about $15.50 an hour, increasing to $17 an hour in a few months, and pay $12 a week for family health insurance, with no copayments or deductibles.

Housekeepers at the Hilton Boston Downtown, on the other hand, make around $12.50 an hour and pay up to $200 a week for health care, with variable copays and deductibles.

Geraldina Texiera, 33, said she has received only a 24-cent raise in the five years she has worked as a housekeeper at the Hilton Boston Downtown, and can’t afford the health insurance premiums.

“I want a union because I can’t pay the insurance here because it’s too expensive,’’ said Texiera, who instead is on MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.

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

Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story gave the wrong location for a hotel workers’ protest. The picketing took place at the Hilton Boston Downtown in the Financial District, not the Hilton Boston Back Bay.

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