Hundreds of hospitality workers rallied outside the Hynes Convention Center Wednesday to protest Gov. Charlie Baker’s bid to sell the Back Bay event space.

Workers employed by the Hynes and nearby hotels marched with union leaders from UNITE HERE Local 26 from Copley Square in the pouring rain, gathering outside in a sea of umbrellas, bucket drums and banners reading “Save Hynes, save our jobs.”

“We rely on the Hynes to survive, and the hotels were built to serve the Hynes,” said Toula Savvidis, who has worked as a bartender at the Sheraton Boston Hotel for 22 years. “If the Hynes is sold, what happens to us?”

Baker first proposed selling the state-owned Hynes in 2019, just before the start of the pandemic, as part of a $500 million expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in the Seaport. He returned to the idea in April when he included a measure to sell the building in a larger economic development bill before the Massachusetts Legislature, arguing the center is underused. “Prior to the pandemic, occupancy of this giant space fluctuated around 60% of capacity; it has not recovered to even that low level since the COVID-19 outbreak,” Baker wrote in his filing letter.

“It's scary, because this is the second time — like, ‘Oh, man, here we go with this again,’” said Donnell Beverly, a barback who has worked for 16 years at the Hynes. “After the pandemic, conventions aren’t all the way back. Now you’re not even worried about the conventions coming back, you’re worried about finding a whole new line of work somewhere else.”

The proposal suggests that proceeds from the sale would fund affordable housing in and around Boston and be used to redevelop the Back Bay neighborhood, including a 20% allocation to the sale’s mitigate impacts in the area — which covers local businesses, residents and employees. Workers employed by Hynes would be transferred to positions at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport and would not lose their jobs, according to a spokesperson from the Massachusetts Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

But Beverly isn’t convinced. He thinks condensing the 1,700-person workforce at Hynes into the BCEC would create a scarcity of jobs and limit opportunities for work. “My salary would probably go down drastically,” Beverly said. “This is bigger than just selling a building and transferring a piece of property. There are a lot of people attached to this convention center, all the way down the Back Bay. It's more like it's a whole block you're killing.”

Darryl Singletary, who has been working at the Hynes for 36 years, makes roughly $35 an hour as the leader of a team transporting and preparing food for events.

“I started working at the Hynes at the age of 21. I’m 55 now, working at the Hynes and able to afford to take care of my family,” Singletary said. “Do you think, at the age of 55, I want to look for a new job?”

Darryl Singletary, 55, speaks to workers at a protest outside the Hynes Convention Center, June 1, 2022
Tori Bedford GBH News

Through union wages and contract negotiations, “we can afford housing and good living,” Singletary said. “We don’t want to give that back. In Boston, we don’t leave our people behind.”

Built in the 1960s, the Hynes will need more than $200 million in upkeep over the next decade, according to the Baker administration. A recent economic impact analysis projected that a redevelopment would result in 7,200 permanent jobs, more than 5,000 construction jobs and a 36% increase in overnight hotel occupancies, according to the state.

Any development planned for the space will ultimately need approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency and a green light from legislators. City Council President Ed Flynn, who represents the neighborhood surrounding the Hynes, says he opposes the sale of the building. If a sale does take place, Flynn says, input from workers is critical.

“I think it's important for workers to have their voices heard during this process,” Flynn said. “Many of them are critical to the Boston economy, and as we come out of the pandemic, we want to make sure that there's a place for them.”