Evil Empire returns: Yanks spit in workers’ faces by crossing picket line
Unite Here Local 28

It was a moment to do the right thing. A moment to build and strengthen solidarity across industries, as the attacks against working people continue. A moment to show the world a better side—as they too will be fighting for a union contract in 2021—and set historic rivalry aside.

Instead, New York Yankees’ players, union members themselves, casually crossed a union picket line out front of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Thursday, Oct. 4, ignoring the chants (“One Job Should Be Enough”) by hotel cleaners, cooks, servers, and bartenders echoing through downtown Boston.

Guess they call them the “Evil Empire” for a reason.

With the postseason heating up, team skirmishes are expected, but not at the expense of working people.

“We understand that there’s a very intense rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, but quite frankly we’re a little outraged they would take it out on working-class people who are out here sacrificing to improve their livelihoods,” said Brian Lang, president of Unite Here Local 26, which represents the striking workers. “The Red Sox would never spit on their fans the way the Yankees are.”

A video posted to Twitter shows Yankee outfielder Bret Gardner and reliever Dellin Betances quietly slinking through strikers to enter the hotel.

While other outlets have noted it’s the team itself who books all travel, and blame rests more with management than the players, Gardner and Betances had the choice to call up the team front office and say: “We’re not going to cross a picket line, we would like to be booked at a non-striking union hotel.” Simple as one…two…three.

“As a lifelong Yankee fan and a proud New Yorker, I am disgusted the management of a team representing the strongest union town in America would choose a hotel where workers are on strike,” said Mario Cilento, New York State AFL-CIO president. “Make no mistake, despite the Yankee organization’s callous decision to cross a picket line, New York’s labor movement stands in solidarity with the strikers and supports all working men and women across the country fighting for fairness and dignity at their jobs.”

In response to the backlash from Union leaders, the MLB Players Association released a statement via Twitter saying, “From what we understand, these workers have been trying to negotiate a fair contract for more than six months. They deserve to be heard and deserve our support.”

On October 3, over 1,500 Unite Here Local 26 members walked out at seven Marriott-operated hotels, including: The Aloft Boston Seaport District, the Element Boston Seaport District, the Ritz-Carlton Boston, the Sheraton Boston, the W Hotel Boston, the Westin Boston Waterfront, and the Westin Copley Place.

This is the first hotel strike in Boston’s history.

Hotel workers called for a strike after Marriott failed meet workers’ modest demand that One Job Should Be Enough, despite months of negotiations.

“I am striking because I have to work three jobs to try and cover all my family’s expenses,” said Brooke Melanson, a bartender at the Westin Boston Waterfront. “Just like any parent, I want time with my children to see them grow up. We hear all the time how well Marriott is doing. We want Marriott to recognize our contribution to their success.”

Boston’s hotel workers are calling for wage increases, stable scheduling, job security, salaries that make living in Boston a reality, retirement, and safe working conditions.

“Marriott has forced this strike. After five years of record profits and more than six months of contract talks Marriott still doesn’t get it,” said UNITE HERE Local 26 President Brian Lang. “It’s our work that creates the great experience for the hotel guests. We are the reason that they keep coming back.” About 7,700 Marriot International workers have gone out on strike in eight cities, including San Francisco, Oahu and Maui, Hawaii, Boston, Detroit, San Diego, Oakland, and San Jose.

So, if you find yourself traveling soon, do better than the Yankees, don’t cross a picket line—if you’ve got time, I suggest you join them and lend your voice.

You can find a union hotel by visiting: www.fairhotel.org (there’s even an app for it).

And if you want, feel free to tell Marriott executives to do the right by clicking here for their contact form.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.