BOSTON — “Don’t check in, check out!” chanted striking hotel workers in front of the Westin Copley Square downtown Marriott hotel here Oct. 6. They beat drums and blew horns as they marched. Some 1,500 members of UNITE HERE Local 26 have been on strike since Oct. 3 at this and six other area Marriott-operated hotels, demanding higher wages. Their central slogan is “One job should be enough,” capturing the fact that the hotel workers’ wages are too low to survive without getting another job or two.
Thousands more hotel workers — housekeepers, dishwashers, servers and bartenders, cooks and bellmen — went on strike at Marriott in the Bay Area, Militant worker-correspondent Andrea Morell reported. They began picketing at seven downtown San Francisco hotels, and one each in Oakland and San Jose, California. In addition to wages, workers say health care and job speedup are key issues.
Nacho, a worker at the Oakland hotel who only used his first name, told the Militant that health coverage is the most important issue to him. “Marriott wants to take away our Kaiser medical plan,” he said. “Now we pay $25 a month to cover our family. Marriott wants to make us pay $300 a month.”
“The strike’s going well,” Juan Robles told the Militant in Boston. Robles has worked at the Copley Square hotel since he finished high school 26 years ago. “Customers are complaining about noise and poor service on the hotel website. And we’re getting support. Members of the Teamsters, SEIU 1199 and other unions have picketed with us.”
“I am striking because I have to work three jobs to try and cover all my family’s expenses,” said Brooke Melanson, a bartender at the Westin Boston Waterfront, quoted by the union in a press statement on the strike. Last year Boston ranked 13th in the cost of living index of U.S. cities.
Pickets — the majority of whom are fierce partisans of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, which was playing in the American League Eastern Division playoffs against the New York Yankees — were angry that some Yankees players had crossed the picket line at the Ritz Carlton the day before. “We call them ‘Yankee scabs,’” Robles said.
Marriott bosses face the likelihood of additional strikes as contracts are running out in Detroit, Seattle, San Diego and Hawaii as well, the union said.