Gov. Charlie Baker's latest push to sell off the Hynes Convention Center is poised to slam into opposition from organized labor leaders, who plan to rally against the idea Wednesday afternoon with "hundreds" of hospitality workers who could be affected.
UNITE HERE Local 26 organizers announced Wednesday morning they will gather in Copley Square at 3 p.m. and march to the Hynes for a set of speeches arguing that "now is not the time to sell the Hynes."
"The Hynes Convention Center is the heartbeat of the Back Bay. While the discussion of a sale has been focused on the building itself, it is real live people who work in the Hynes and it is real live people who flood out of the Hynes and onto Boylston and Newbury streets at lunch and dinner time, filling retail stores, restaurants, and other tourist attractions," organizers wrote in a press advisory.
"Selling the Hynes would devastate thousands of workers -- not just those who work in the convention center, but also Back Bay hotel workers who rely on Hynes events to fill nearby hotel rooms and keep their well-paying, middle-class jobs secure."
Boston City Council President Ed Flynn will join the rally, as will leaders from other labor unions and Back Bay community members, according to rally organizers.
Baker in 2019 first proposed legislation that would permit the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to sell the Hynes and use the proceeds to pay for expansions at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Legislative leaders sent the governor's original bill to dead-end studies and have not indicated if they will support the measure, which Baker included in a $3.5 billion economic development bill likely to pass in some form, this time around.
Baker this year proposed putting the sale proceeds toward housing and to mitigating neighborhood impacts from the Hynes' closure.
"Right now, we have a big empty space with millions and millions of square feet and not much goes on there and it's in a part of the city that is very quiet," Baker said in March.
"One of the things we would like to engage the Legislature on is how to make that space active and vibrant and what that looks like."
The debate over whether Boston needs to have two convention centers has gone on for years. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is the larger of the two centers, but the Back Bay area has been reluctant to give up the positive economic impacts that flow from the Hynes, even as the pandemic has reshaped the idea of conventions and the industry slowly recovers.