Public Comment

The Marriott Strike: "One Job Should Be Enough"

Harry Brill
Friday October 26, 2018 - 04:30:00 PM

The Marriott Hotels, which is the largest and most profitable hotel chain in the country, is being struck by workers who earn a poverty wage. After several months of fruitless negotiations, the Unite-Here Union, which represents the hotel workers, authorized a strike that has resulted in a walkout of about 7700 workers in eight cities, including the Marriott Hotels in Oakland and San Francisco. Unite-Here is among the most diversified union in the country. A majority of its members are women, people of color, and immigrants. Fortunately, the Union is highly principled and assertive. In fact, both the presidents of the San Francisco and Oakland locals were arrested with 39 others for engaging in direction action.

The hotel's addiction to maximizing profits has been very costly to Marriott employees. Although the cost of living continues to increase, wages remain very low. Even long term workers are averaging only about $12 an hour. As a result an increasing number of workers are being forced to hold two and even three jobs to support their family. Moreover, for many housekeepers the demanding and heavy load has resulted in serious physical injuries. So far the Marriott has refused to budge on key issues, including its plans to increase worker contributions to health benefits.

Moreover, jobs have become more insecure due to new technology. From the perspective of the employees they are not opposed to new technology. But rather than taking their jobs away, they want the technology to help them do a better job. The union would prefer that its members have input on the introduction of technology. Perhaps there can be other ways for the Marriott hotels to save money rather than dismissing workers. Laying off workers should not be the first resort for the hotel chain. So Instead, workers want at least a 180 day notice to explore alternatives. And the employees certainly want to be assured that they receive fair severance pay if they are ultimately laid off. 

Also, Marriott has been adopting what it calls a "Make a Green Choice Program". It sounds like an environmental program but actually its purpose is to reduce staff and staff hours. In short, it permits guests to receive various benefits if they decline housekeeping services. In fact, housekeepers have seen their hours reduced 15 to 20 percent because of the so called green choice program. Labor during the recession years agreed to forgo pay increases. But now the chain is making huge profits. In the second quarter, profits increased 25 percent from the previous year to $610 million. The hotel chain can afford to pay much better wages and still earn a substantial profit. 

If you live in the East Bay, please join the picket line even for a short while at the Marriott in Oakland, which is on Broadway and 11th street. The Marriott workers would be very grateful for your support.