SF, Hawaii hotel strikers: ‘One job should be enough!’

By Joel Britton
December 10, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of striking hotel workers, members of the UNITE HERE union, gathered in a steady rain Nov. 23, rallying at downtown Yerba Buena Gardens on Mission Street to show their determination to continue their strike at seven Marriott hotels here.

Over 5,000 Marriott workers are on strike in San Francisco and Hawaii. Others have settled in Boston, Detroit, Oakland, San Diego and San Jose.

The strikers’ central demand is “One job should be enough!” The cost of living, especially housing, means many of these workers have to work two or three jobs to get by. The slogan is widely popular among all workers.

A union flyer distributed on the picket lines reads, “We are calling on Marriott to provide jobs that are enough to live on. Marriott workers want one job that’s safe, secure, and enough to make ends meet.”

Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco, reported to the rally that Marriott bosses are demanding the union give up on winning both a substantial wage increase and retaining their medical coverage as it is. Under the contract that expired in August, single workers paid no premium and workers married with family paid $10 a month.

Resounding shouts of “No! No! No!” rang out when Singh asked whether Marriott’s demand was acceptable.

“It doesn’t make sense. We need both a wage increase and health care,” St. Francis hotel striker Carlos Zevallo told the Militant. “Can Marriott afford it? Of course! Marriott is playing hardball. We have got to be stronger than them mentally. Remember, the service inside must be terrible.”

The unionists, many wearing red, the union’s color, and holding umbrellas, marched through throngs of Black Friday shoppers to Union Square to swell the picket line at the Westin St. Francis. “One job should be enough!” and “Contract now!” chants rang out at the front entrance.

Thanksgiving was “Day 50” for striking Marriott Marquis workers here. Strikers organized a potluck turkey dinner and hung Christmas decorations up on the picket line. A Local 2 statement declared this was “a show of their resolve to strike during yet another holiday if Marriott refuses to make reasonable concessions at the bargaining table.”

“It’s remarkable that Marriott chose to keep their workers and their families on the street for Thanksgiving,” Singh told KTVU Fox 2. “We’re asking the richest hotel company in human history to treat their workers with human dignity.”

Striking UNITE HERE Local 5 members in Hawaii held candlelight vigils outside hotels there Nov. 25 — the 49th day of the walkout. The housekeepers, maintenance, food and beverage, front desk and other workers voted the week prior to the vigils to reject the bosses’ latest concession demands. Negotiations resumed Nov. 26.

“This is a bit bigger than us. This is the working class standing up to corporate greed,” Sheraton Waikiki worker Jenny Johnson told Hawaii News Now at a special union-organized Thanksgiving potluck dinner Nov. 22. “We are not asking for astronomical things and this company makes hundreds of millions of dollars in profit.”

Because of the length of the strike, Local 5 announced that strike benefits, which were $300 a week when the strike began, would go up to $500. Other help for strikers pressed by bills is available at the strike headquarters seven days a week.