After two months of strikes, workers at the largest hotel company in the world have won their biggest demands and set a new pattern for the hospitality industry.
The seven UNITE HERE locals in Hawaii, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Detroit, and Boston bargained separately, but similar contract expiration dates allowed 7,700 workers to strike Marriott at the same time.
Their common demands focused on three areas—job security, workload, and wages and benefits—and the slogan, “One Job Should Be Enough.”
Employees stopped Marriott from making them choose between wages and benefits. Details varied local by local, but across the country they won on both.
In San Francisco and Hawaii, workers won $4 raises over the four-year contract. San Diego workers got a 40 percent increase. In Boston, they got 20 percent. Boston, Hawaii, and San Francisco also won increased pension contributions and maintained or improved their health care.
Many of these cities have a very high cost of living. “We cannot pay the bills on what we are making,” said San Francisco housekeeper Candida Kevorkian, who was picket captain at the Westin St. Francis. (Marriott includes the Westin and Sheraton hotel chains.)
San Francisco’s Local 2 was the last to come to an agreement. Picketers there braved not only the weather but also the wildfires that for weeks filled the Bay Area air with smoke.
“It was a fight every day,” Kevorkian said. “We had to deal with rain, smoke. We had to wear masks.”
Take a Load Off
Another key issue was workload. Workers won new protections against overwork and understaffing.
Hotel workers won relief from Green Choice, a Marriott program that encourages guests to help the environment by skipping housekeeping. That may sound benign, but housekeepers say the program is really an excuse to cut staff and doesn’t take into account that a hotel room that hasn’t been cleaned for three days requires more work than one that gets cleaned each day.