(The Westin Copely Hotel was the first hotel I went to supporting the striking workers picket line)
Over the past five days I have visited the picket lines of the seven hotels that are on strike with the UNITE HERE Local 26 labor union. The picket lines are raucous and noisy.
There are a lot of 5 gallon barrels used as drums, noise makers, whistles a tambourine, and even a cow bell. A local informal band called Honk came down to one of the hotels and marched while paying their horns and trumpets.
There are about 1,500 workers on strike, but the picket lines often have a small number of people on them. A few times the union leaders marched the workers away from one hotel to join another to increase the size of the pickets up to about a hundred on the line.
(Picketing between the Aloft Hotel and Elements Hotel in Boston’s Seaport District – 8 Oct 2018)
The union has paid for an advertising truck – billboard to drive around town advertising the fact that the hotel workers are on strike.
The union must have taken out permits to place construction containers near two strike locations. These large room-sized metal containers have the signs on wooden poles, 5 gallon plastic buckets that are used as drums, and cases of water bottles and other supplies for the picket line.
The lines are very noisy and it is difficult to talk to people and have a political conversation or talk about how the strike might be won.
Most days I have simply gone as a reporter/photographer after introducing myself to the picket captain and telling them that I wrote and took pictures and video. The reception has been mostly welcoming. Twice people questioned my being there and I pointed to the captain and said I already had permission.
(This striker gave me some candy while I was walking the picket line)
The workforce is half female, a lot of Latinos, black people, Caribbeans, women with head scarfs (who do that interesting tongue thing ululating) Asians who are Chinese and other East Asians. There are also maybe ten percent who are white European looking.
The picketers are not stopping people from crossing the picket lines. The line parts politely at driveways to let cars through. The union marshals often help the police and hotel security part the crowd. When I asked a picket captain if delivery people and Teamsters where honoring the picket lines she said ‘all of the unions in Boston support the strike.’ But…that didn’t answer my question.
There are only two or three police at each picket site. The union pickets are not putting people at the back entrances or side doors of the hotels. The union seems to put great faith in making noise and drumming. At the Aloft hotel there was a large drumming circle of more than half a dozen people banging away.
One guest at a struck hotel said that things were okay, except for the noise, so maybe the hotel workers know what they are doing. I was at the ‘W’ hotel on Stuart Street today and there were only about a dozen picketers when I introduced myself and joined the line. At times the picket line was down to about six people. Cars and trucks go by and honk in solidarity and some people go by and give a thumbs up or words of encouragement.
(Boston School Bus Drivers Union members support the Hotel Strikers)
The picket lines are not angry. Guests and hotel security move easily through the lines. Some security are friendly with the strikers and seem to know them and greet them. The police keep their distance and wear earplugs and look bored. I didn’t see the Yankees cross the picket line, but I was at the Ritz-Carleton when the hockey players for the Edmonton Oilers walked through picket line with long bags and lots of hockey sticks. Someone got a picture of them with their eyes cast down and put it on Twitter.
Video I took yesterday shows the leader of the UNITE HERE Local 26 Brian Lang and International President Pete Taylor spoke to striking hotel workers under cool and cloudy skies at around 11 am on Monday morning 8 October 2018.
(UNITE HERE Local 26 President Brian Lang chants with striking hotel workers)
(Aloft Hotel 8 Oct 2018)
The noisy picket line stopped to hear the labor union leaders speak to the crowd of about 100 workers picketing in front of the Aloft hotel. There are now about 7,000 Marriott Hotel workers across the country out on strike with their labor unions.
The chanting of slogans ‘Don’t check in, check out’ and the call and response ‘What do we want’ ‘Contract!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Now!’ or ‘Whose got the power?’ ‘We have the power!’ have a hypnotic effect with the drumming and marching. I thought of Ancient Sparta where warriors would oil there naked bodies and get in a group dance with all the other warriors and dance and chant to prepare for battle. We were working up adrenaline sometimes. I was raising and lowering my picket sign in time to the chants. We were a group of humans moving in unison with a purpose. We were marching together as a unit to win a goal. What can stop us?