Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, addresses striking Marriott workers and their supporters ahead of a march in downtown San Francisco on Saturday. (Laura Waxmann/S.F. Examiner)

Striking Marriott workers rally for affordable healthcare as negotiations pick up this weekend

Union leaders representing more than 2,500 Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco say they hope to convince the corporation to continue footing the medical costs of its workers in bargaining sessions scheduled throughout the weekend.

Saturday marked day 59 of a national strike in San Francisco, the last of eight cities in which Marriott workers who walked out of their jobs to demand a fairer contract have not returned to work.

Full healthcare coverage and higher wages continue to be sticking points, according to leaders with the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE Local 2.

“Marriott presents us with a false choice — in negotiations they say you can have your health care or you can have a decent wage increase and a pension,” said Local 2 President Anand Singh, at a demonstration and march that drew several hundred striking workers as well as city and state leaders to downtown San Francisco on Saturday.

 

Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, addresses striking Marriott workers and their supporters ahead of a march in downtown San Francisco on Saturday. (Laura Waxmann/S.F. Examiner)

A spokesperson for Marriott International declined to comment on details of the ongoing negotiations.

Singh said that while San Francisco hotel workers have “one of the best standards for healthcare coverage of any hotel workers” in the country, paying little to no cost monthly for full coverage, rising health care costs are creating “tremendous pressure” on the negotiations and have jeopardized these long benefits.

“It is criminal that every dollar we wrest from the hands of the corporate bosses, we turn around and hand 40 cents to Kaiser and the other health care providers in this day and age when health care should be a human right,” said Singh. 

He Added that the rising costs, however, do not “provide an excuse to Marriott to say they can’t afford it.”

“For a $44 billion corporation they can afford to do both — we demand our health care and we demand that one job should be enough to live and work in the bay area,” Singh said.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who attended the demonstration alongside San Francisco supervisors Hillary Ronen, Ahsha Safai, Vallie Brown and San Francisco Democratic Party Chair David Campos, pointed out that Saturday marked World Aids Day — and that access to healthcare could mean “life or death” for people living with HIV.

“If we are serious about beating this epidemic, need to make sure that everyone can afford good, high quality healthcare, so let’s keep fighting for that,” Wiener said.

Marriott housekeeper Tammy Tam said that her health care plan saved her from bankruptcy following a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis that resulted in a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 2009.

“I still need to get my body checked every year,” Tam said. “Now, Marriott is proposing either a wage increase or healthcare, but we need both.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.comBay Area News

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