San Francisco Marriott workers celebrate new contract
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

SAN FRANCISCO – Some 2,500 workers at seven Marriott hotels here are celebrating victory after their hard-fought two-month strike against the giant hotel chain.

The Marriott’s housekeepers, bartenders, bellmen and other workers were the last to win a new contract, among some 7,700 members of UNITE HERE who struck the hotel chain in early October in eight locations across the country – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego in California; Honolulu and Lahaina in Hawaii; Boston and Detroit.

News about all the strikes has been featured on a special website, onejob.org.

UNITE HERE Local 2 said the Marriott workers voted by 99.6 percent Dec. 3 to ratify the new four-year pact. They halted their persistent, energetic picketing at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis the W and the Westin St. Francis, and were slated to return to work Dec. 5.

Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, has management or franchise agreements around the world. Its net profits reached nearly $1.4 billion last year.

The strike’s slogan – “One Job Should Be Enough” – reflects the toll soaring living costs are taking on the lives of hotel and other workers, with many workers forced to take second and even third jobs to make ends meet.

UNITE HERE says San Francisco’s Marriott workers won strong wage increases, better pensions and strengthened health care benefits. Housekeepers, among the lowest paid, will see their wages grow significantly over the life of the contract.

Another key demand won by housekeepers and others who work individually with guests: each will be given a silent GPS-enabled panic button enabling them to call for help if they feel threatened and will be able to avoid further contact with a harassing guest.

The new contract also addresses the heavier workload housekeepers can face under the “green choice” program rewarding guests for opting out of daily room cleanings. Workers say that cleaning rooms after a longer interval greatly intensifies their workload.

UNITE HERE said contracts at all the strike locations mark “historic” wage and benefit increases and include pioneering civil rights protections creating a pathway out of poverty via access to good union jobs, and sexual harassment protections “including removal and banning of guests who violate women.” Workers will also participate in discussions about automating hotel functions.

After the San Francisco contract was approved, Local 2’s president, Anand Singh, told radio station KQED, “This hard-fought contract sets a new and transformative standard for San Francisco’s hotel industry. During more than two months on strike, hotel workers’ resolve never wavered and neither did the support and solidarity in our community. Now it’s time for every hotel to follow Marriott’s lead.”

UNITE HERE’s national president, D. Taylor, said the San Francisco settlement “marks the beginning of a new standard for hotel workers in North America, and has made Marriott a leader in the hospitality industry by.” ensuring that one job is enough for hotel workers to live with dignity.

On Dec. 1, as the final round of negotiations was about to take place, Local 2 members rallied on Market Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, before marching to four of the struck hotels. The workers were joined by union and community allies from around the Bay Area and beyond, including leaders of the California Labor Federation and the neighboring Alameda and San Mateo Labor Federations. Also participating were many area elected officials and other political leaders.

Among those addressing the gathering was Larrilou Carumba, a housekeeper at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis for over six years.

“We are on strike because one job should be enough!” she told the crowd. “I’m the mother of three kids, and my job isn’t enough for me to take care of my kids. If I have to work two jobs, I don’t have time to take care of my kids or myself.”

Carumba said that after her eight-hour shift at the hotel, she would pick up her children and fix their dinners, and then go to her second job: cleaning a laundromat.

She also told rally participants about the importance of safe workloads, telling the crowd, “I don’t get extra time to clean my dirty “green choice” room after three or more days without cleaning. That hurts my body.”

After the settlement was reached, Carumba said she is happy she’ll be able to take care of her children without having to work another job.

UNITE HERE represents over 270,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service and airport industries across the United States and Canada.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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