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Nearly 2,500 Marriott workers at 7 SF hotels on strike

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Avery Nulph, a union captain with Unite Here Local 2, leads a chant as workers picket outside the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Nearly 2,500 Marriott hotel workers went on strike Thursday morning at seven San Francisco hotels in what organizers are calling the biggest hotel workers strike in The City in decades.

Picket lines will be set up outside the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the W, and the Westin St. Francis.

“It’s an open-ended strike. We are serious about our demands and ready to fight as long as it takes,” said Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, the union representing the hotel workers. “We are going to fight one day longer than the company is willing to fight.”

The union reports it has been in talks with Marriott since June for contracts covering nearly 2,500 workers, and that those workers had been working without a contract since August. 15.

On Thursday morning, at least three dozen employees picketed outside of the Marriott Marquis at 780 Mission St. Some reported walking off the job as early as 3 a.m. 

“I am out here for my kids basically. My benefits, they depend on it, my wife depends on it,” said Miguel Medina, who has worked at the Marriott Marquis as a banquet houseman for 15 years. “Marriott wants us to pay more for our benefits, and they want us to work more for our benefits.”

According to Medina, departments have been downsized in recent years and employees are expected to “cross train” in order to assume duties across various departments. 

“When somebody leaves they usually don’t hire a replacement — they increase our workload,” said Medina. “Not only is it a burden on us, but it’s a burden on the guest. The guest is paying good money to stay in a hotel like this, and they really are not getting what they paid for.”

A Marriott Marquis guest who observed the strike on Thursday and gave her name as “Sarah” said that she supported the workers “100 percent.”

“I don’t mind the protesters, I mind the jack hammers. There’s construction going on inside — I was hoping they’d be on strike too,” she said, adding that she is “for the working man, not the big corporations.”

Andre Cortez, who has worked in the housekeeping department at the Marriott Marquis for almost three decades, said that the company has already hired contractors to replace the striking workers. No matter, he was confident that the strike would have the desired impact.

“They can’t replace our experience,” said Cortez.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who oversees the South of Market neighborhood where the Marriott Marquis is located, said that she is “fully in support of our 2,500 hotel workers.” 

“Don’t cross the picket line, join the picket line,” Kim wrote in a post on Facebook. 

Marriott’s leadership said in a statement on Thursday that they are “disappointed” with the union’s decision to resort to a strike, and that the company “will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work.”

“During the strike, our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests. We continue to bargain in good faith for a fair contract,” the Marriott said.

But Singh contended that the company has not budged on several key issues outlined by the union, including maintaining workers’ health and welfare benefits and “real job security.”

“We want to ensure that workers have a real voice at the table on the future of their jobs, as new technologies enter the workplace that will either improve their lives or destroy their lives,” said Singh. “On all of those key issues, we have either been met with resistance from this company or deafening silence.”

Marriott workers are also on strike in Boston and San Jose, and a Local 2 spokesperson estimated that over 4,000 workers walked out of their jobs on Thursday. Strikes have also been authorized by Marriott workers in Detroit, Honolulu, Maui, Oakland, San Diego and Seattle.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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