After a 79-day strike, workers at the Battery Wharf Hotel voted unanimously Friday to approve a new contract, ushering in historic gains agreed to by every other major union hotel in the city but long resisted by Battery Wharf.
The issues surrounding the strike, the longest in the history of Unite Here Local 26, were highly contentious. Union officials said the hotel was not just refusing to improve working conditions but also attempting to undo longstanding protections for women, immigrants, and African-Americans.
And the boisterous picket lines also caused major disruptions for the residents who live in luxury condos on the property, one of whom said he and his pregnant wife were spit on, photographed, and called names by the striking workers.
The new contract includes a roughly 20 percent increase in wages over the life of the contract, which is retroactive to 2018 and expires in August of 2022; a 37 percent increase in pension contributions; and six weeks of paid maternity leave.
The agreement also features significant job protections: a five-year job guarantee for immigrants if their protected status is revoked; 165-day advance notification of new technology and mandatory training for workers whose jobs will be affected by it; an alert system for housekeepers in case of an assault; and a registry of guests accused of sexual misconduct and possible banishment from the hotel.
The 75 housekeepers, cooks, front desk agents, and bellmen are set to return to work Monday.
“It’s extraordinary the tenacity and power that these workers have demonstrated over the course of these 79 days,” said Carlos Aramayo, the financial secretary treasurer of Local 26. “I don’t think we could have gotten to this point without what really is a family of workers here who stayed strong in wind. . . cold, snow, rain, you name it.”
Housekeeper Serendou Kamara, who has been at the hotel for 10 years, said the contract finally made her feel respected after being treated like “nothing” in the past. “When I go back inside, my head is up,” she said.
In a statement, Battery Wharf general manager Nick Teeson said the hotel was happy to reach an agreement with the union: “We look forward to welcoming our employees back to work.”
Residents who live at the waterfront property were relieved that the standoff was over. The noise caused by striking workers was “horrendous,” one said, lasting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Another said the workers were “terrorizing” residents. Hotel workers don’t provide many services for residents, but the strike was honored by other union members who do, such as drivers who refused to deliver packages and park cars.
Resident Joanne Prevost Anzalone said residents had been trying to get an injunction to move the strikers away from the entrance, noting that residents were “innocent victims” in the struggle between hotel management and its workers.
“I’m very, very pleased for all the residents because it’s holiday time and it shouldn’t be happening on holiday time, for the residents or the strikers,” said Anzalone, who is vice president of the Battery Wharf residential condo association. “Maybe we can have peace and quiet for at least three years.”
The work stoppage came on the heels of the first major Boston hotel strike in modern history, when more than 1,500 Marriott workers walked off the job in October of 2018, launching a string of Marriott job actions across the country. The 46-day work stoppage ended with a progressive citywide contract, but Battery Wharf refused to agree to it.
Instead, hotel management wanted to go “backward,” the union said, erasing protections for immigrants and women, eliminating diversity clauses intended to help African-American workers, gutting health insurance, scrapping pensions, increasing workloads, and freezing wages.
After months of negotiations, the hotel’s workers walked out on Sept. 5.
After the vote was tallied Friday afternoon, workers at strike headquarters were ready to throw a party.
“It was hard, but it was all worth it in the end,” said server Dalida Ahmic, who was outside with front desk agent Shawna Turay.
Said Turay: “I hope management treats us with respect and they see that we do have power.”