Union workers step up to serve at 'Boston Hope'

Teri Trotman of Dorchester has worked intermittently at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) since 1994. As a member of the UNITE HERE Local 26 food service workers union, Trotman is a veteran of the industry, having logged countless hours at the center preparing banquets in addition to some banking and bartending work.

Last week, after the South Boston facility was temporarily transformed into the “Boston Hope” COVID-19 field hospital, Trotman didn’t think twice about returning to a workspace that was now on the front lines of the pandemic.

“They gave us the opportunity, and I figured it would be something I would want to do,” she explained. “Sometimes you just feel that you need to do something. We’re all humans, you know, these are all our people. Everybody needs to chip in somehow if they want to, even if it’s just staying at home to not spread anything...I felt this is what I wanted to do.”

Trotman, 56, is an essential worker— one of thousands across the city who continue to provide crucial services during this national health emergency. These essential service industry workers — many of whom are from our neighborhood— assume a level of risk as they go about their jobs.

But so far, Trotman told the Reporter, she feels safe.

Trotman said that while a few of her colleagues were nervous at first about working in the same building as COVID-19-positive patients, those fears dissipated when they saw the slew of safety measures being taken onsite.

“They’re really taking precautions,” she said. “They’re not playing around. When we come in, they take our temperature with this eye instrument and they give us plenty of masks and gloves. They even have this special sanitizer station where they sanitize all kinds of things.”

Trotman added that she and her coworkers are “nowhere near the patients,” who are being treated in the “Ground Zero” first-floor showroom area while food service workers stay in the loading dock and on the second floor.

“They know what they’re doing. They’re trying to control this thing,” she said. “They’re thinking about our well-being, too. They need us. They don’t want us to get sick.”

Trotman sees herself as providing important behind-the- scenes support to the doctors and nurses doing their best to save lives. “We provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, plenty of coffee,” she noted. “We provide that for them; they need those things to keep their spirits up, keep their energy up.”

As for Local 26, Trotman said the union has been “really helpful. They have a hotline, and they’ve been sending us emails with resources and different things for different people ... If they don’t have it, they’ll go out and find the information and then call back and check on you.”

And while she’s happy contributing to the cause, Trotman said that at the convention center, “it’s going to be some time before we get back to normal,” estimating the effects of the crisis will last “good into the summer.”

Until then, Trotman and her colleagues will continue serving the folks at Boston Hope, where she said a feeling of community is developing. “We’re all in the same boat. Everybody’s just trying to cope with whatever situation they’re in. We’re all here trying to do what we can do.”