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Striking Marriott workers arrested after blocking South of Market streets

Police arrested 41 striking Marriott hotel workers Friday evening after they blocked traffic on Fourth Street during a march through the South of Market neighborhood.

More than 1,000 striking workers from San Francisco and Oakland Marriott hotels participated in the march, which began at Fourth and Market streets around 4 p.m. Their route took them past the W San Francisco and St. Regis San Francisco hotels, where picketers were already out in force, before arriving at the Marriott Marquis on Fourth Street.

The majority of protesters continued to loudly picket on the sidewalk, taking up the entire length of the block, while approximately 50 protesters sat down in the middle of the street blocking traffic in an act of civil disobedience.

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

Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, and Wei-Ling Huber, president of Local 2850 in Oakland, were among those arrested.

“After being on strike for one week and not seeing any movement from the company, we’re ready to step it up and show them how serious we are,” Singh said before the march. His union represents nearly 2,500 Marriott workers in The City.

Dozens of people were also arrested at a previous march by the union on Labor Day, including Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and former Supervisor John Avalos.

San Francisco workers have been picketing outside seven Marriott-owned hotels 24 hours a day since Oct. 4, chanting 6 a.m. to Midnight and shouting on bullhorns 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Marriott workers in seven other cities, including Oakland and San Jose, are also on strike. Altogether, there are approximately 7,700 Marriot workers on the picket line across the U.S.

Union officials said the previous contract expired on Aug. 15 and they’ve been engaged in negotiations for months. The next round of negotiations is scheduled Wednesday through Friday next week in Las Vegas, where union representatives from all eight cities on strike will meet with Marriott officials.

“We remain individual bargaining units, but (we’re) all coming together for the negotiations. This is about Marriott workers around the country and not limited to any one city,” Singh said. “The company’s lack of movement in negotiations is not isolated to any one city. We’re all fighting for the same thing here.”

But Singh didn’t have high hopes progress would be made.

“We are very far apart on issues key to workers. I don’t have very high expectations that those negotiations will yield a settlement,” he said.

In a written statement, Marriott said the company respects workers’ right to strike, but would also welcome employees who choose to continue to work.

“We are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike at this time. During the strike our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests,” the statement said.

Customer reviews on travel websites indicate some Marriott customers in The City have been disappointed with their accommodations since the strike began. The reviews paint a picture of guests blindsided by news of the strike when they arrive to check-in and being surprised to find in some cases there was no housekeeping service or on-site food available.

“Upon check-in, the front desk didn’t explain at all the trade-offs due to the labor strike. It is excuse after excuse. I am paying full rate for half of the service,” said one reviewer.

“No bed or bath cleaning in five days. Workers strike was managed terribly by the company and staff. Security required you to show a wristband every time you entered the building,” another reviewer wrote.

 

Singh said the strike will continue until they have archived their core demands.

“Workers are out on strike and are fully committed to this campaign. We are confident in our ability to deliver on the promise of one job being enough,” he said. “For us, striking workers, this is about our families, our livelihoods, and our future. For Marriott, this is about dollars and cents.”

“We’re going to win the contract that workers deserve,” he said.

A large group of striking Marriott workers gathers outside the Marriott Marquis hotel. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
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