Marriott strikers fight bosses over wages, hours, safety

By Jeff Powers
November 19, 2018
Militant/Betsey Stone

SAN FRANCISCO — UNITE HERE Local 2 President Anand Singh was the first speaker Nov. 2 when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors convened a hearing on the union’s strike of some 2,500 hotel workers at Marriott here. The strike, part of a national fight by the union to win higher pay and defeat Marriott bosses’ attempt to jack up the cost of workers’ health care, has lasted over a month. Close to 1,000 workers dressed in red, their union colors, packed the meeting.

Marriott workers in San Francisco get an average pay of $44,600 per year, Singh said, not nearly enough in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the country. “One job should be enough!” is the most popular chant on the strike picket lines.

Dozens of strikers testified, explaining that working two or three jobs made it impossible to spend time with their kids. Some described how they had struggled with homelessness. One said he lived in constant fear of losing his job and felt pressure that he couldn’t afford to be sick.

A room cleaner who works on call said that the bosses “green policy,” which allows hotel guests to spend up to three days in a room without it being cleaned, meant she gets less work. And when the room was finally set for cleaning, she often found it was filthy. She said she had been off work injured from conditions she faced on the job three times in seven years.

Maria Calles, a replacement cleaner at the Marriott Marquis, told the press she had been fired by her employer — contractor Environmental Service Partners — for talking to the San Francisco Chronicle about not having been paid for three days.

“They fired me unjustly, and I have a right to speak,” she told the paper.

Workers in Oakland and Detroit settled with the Marriott earlier that day and are back to work. Details of the agreement have yet to be made public. Besides the seven San Francisco hotels, Marriott workers at 14 other hotels in Boston, San Diego, San Jose and two cities in Hawaii are still on strike.