Hotel room cleaners on strike

SAN FRANCISCO – The 50 room cleaners at the Marriott Courtyard on Fisherman’s Wharf had enough of substandard pay and overwork, so they hit the bricks for the past three weekends and continued into this week. The room cleaners, all women, were joined by other unions as well as their own Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 2, creating a large and energetic picket line, complete with whistles, drums and chants.

The striking workers’ statement explained, “We have been negotiating with the Marriott Courtyard at the Wharf for over seven months. We have been very patient and have negotiated in good faith. The response has been delay and unreasonable proposals. We cannot continue to work without a new contract. This is the only hotel on the Wharf that refuses to sign a fair contract with our union.”

Pickets called out loud and clear, “Marriott Courtyard rolling in the dough, union bashing’s got to go” and “Don’t check in, check out,” letting the neighborhood know that they were not happy with their conditions. Bright yellow and blue balloons floated above the police barricades across the front of the hotel. Longshoremen, service employees and other friends joined the vigorous picket line.

Helen A. Nobida, a 12-year veteran room cleaner at the hotel, told the World that the owner “doesn’t want to give us the back pay he owes, and added other tasks to the job. All 50 cleaners came out, no one is inside. It is amazing!”

Nobida’s children are grown, but many of the cleaners have small children, some attanding the demonstrations. They gather with paints and crayons as the workers march nearby. The workers are mainly of Latino and Asian Pacific heritage.

The remaining issues on the table were a fair and reasonable workload and wages. In all other union hotels in the neighborhood, room cleaners clean 14 rooms a day, while at the Marriott Courtyard they clean 16. This results in injuries at the workplace and there are no lunch or rest breaks. They have not had a wage increase since 1998, despite the cost-of-living increases during recent years in the Bay Area.

Union president Mike Casey commented, “Ninety percent of San Francisco hotels are union and just this one has refused negotiations. The wealthy owner, who lives in Los Angeles, is not responding. These workers have had enough!”

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org