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City Council pushes hotel to ensure labor practices of contractors

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  February 8, 2012 02:49 PM

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Boston City Council members unanimously called on Boston’s Marriott Copley Place hotel to ensure employees working on its renovation project receive legal wages and benefits after question arose about a subcontractor’s labor practices.

At-Large Councillor Felix G. Arroyo offered a resolution at a City Council meeting last week based on a Globe article reporting state investigations of potential violations of wage laws and other worker protections by a subcontractor hiring out-of-state workers.

“A bad economy is not an excuse to race to the bottom,” Arroyo told the council, outlining the alleged violations and his resolution asking the hotel to "take all necessary actions to ensure" contracted workers receive proper wages and benefits.

The Globe reported last month that Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating whether a subcontractor working on the hotel’s renovation project is paying out-of-state workers less than minimum wage or not paying unemployment insurance taxes.

Last year, three firms working on the project were fined and issued temporary stop work orders for not providing proper worker’s compensation insurance.

A spokeswoman for Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., a national hospitality company, that owns the 1,100 room luxury hotel told the Globe all contractors and subcontractors working on the renovation are required to comply with all wage and labor laws.

“That in this time when we all have constituents that are skilled in the trades and that are desperately looking for work, one of the richest companies in this country and one of the larges hotels in the city is resorting to that,” said Arroyo said about the allegations and the practice of shipping in out-of-state workers.

The council unanimously supported the resolution.

“It makes sense that it shares that profit with the rest of the city,” said Councillor Tito Jackson, referring to the need for more jobs in the city.

Councillor Michael P. Ross, who has walked the picket line with local unions who continue to protest the project for hiring non-local and non-union workers, said the allegations are part of a larger problem of employers hiring workers as contractors so the employer does not have to pay for benefits, forcing workers to seek health insurance or assistance from the state.

“They’re balancing a return on investment to their shareholders on the back of public dollars,” said Ross. “They should be called out for it.”

The resolution will be taken up by the council’s Committee on Labor, Youth Affairs and Human Rights, which Arroyo heads.

Arroyo said he hopes the committee can work with the hotel to address both issues going forward.

“I don’t think it’s a lot to ask the Marriott to hire people who live in this city,” he said.
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