Workers say selling the Hynes would destroy livelihoods. Others point to economic benefits

The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)
The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)

Workers at the Hynes Convention Center demonstrated Wednesday against a potential sale of the facility.

Hundreds of union workers gathered with UNITE HERE Local 26, according to organizers' estimates, to protest Gov. Charlie Baker's proposal to sell the Back Bay building, which spans nearly 6 acres of land.

Advocates for the sale contend proceeds would go toward much-needed projects in downtown Boston, such as affordable housing. They also argue the money required to renovate and maintain the Hynes would be better spent adding amenities to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport.

The Hynes is currently owned by the state and managed by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which also manages the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC).

"Selling the Hynes will bring benefits to the Back Bay and the city of Boston," said Nate Little, a spokesman for the convention center authority. "This is a situation where we're going to have exciting redevelopment in the Back Bay, exciting expansion at the BCEC, and a stronger hospitality economy here in Boston."

But Darryl Singletary, 55, who's been working at the Hynes for 36 years, isn't convinced. He said selling the Hynes would hurt the 200 people who work there, as well as employees at nearby hotels and businesses that benefit from the convention center's foot traffic.

"It’s going to cripple a lot of families," Singletary said. "Jobs are not knocking on your door when you’re 50-plus, paying you the money we’re getting now, so a lot of people are nervous about them selling the Hynes."

Singletary leads a team of runners — workers who transport food and are responsible for preparing the center for its various events. The average union wage in his department is about $26 per hour. Team leaders like him earn roughly $35 per hour.

"To have this job, I’m definitely able to take care of my family," he said, pointing to wages that help him to keep up with the cost of living in Boston, where rental prices are among the highest in the country.

Baker's proposal to sell the Hynes was included in his most recent economic development bill released in April. The sale would ultimately have to be approved by the Massachusetts Legislature.

A 2019 proposal to sell the Hynes fizzled. But as the convention industry slowly recovers from the pandemic, Baker has once again put the idea forward. This time, as part of a $3.5 billion economic proposal to help communities make "transitions into a post-pandemic world."


The Baker administration argues that use of the Hynes was low even before the pandemic, hovering at around 60% of its capacity. The 40-year-old facility also needs an estimated $275 million in renovations, according to the convention center authority.

Singletary said he's seen business increase at the Hynes as COVID restrictions have lifted. He believes selling it now would send the wrong message to workers in the community.

“We helped build this city," he said. “Do not leave us behind."


Headshot of Yasmin Amer

Yasmin Amer Executive Producer, Radio Boston
Yasmin Amer is Executive Producer of WBUR's Radio Boston.



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