Hotel worker strikes spread across U.S.
Approximately 1700 hotel workers in Boston walked off the job on Wednesday, October 3. The strike includes seven hotels across the city: the Sheraton Boston, Westin Copley Square, Westin Waterfront, Aloft Seaport, Element Seaport, W Hotel, and the Ritz-Carlton. All the hotels involved are operated by Marriott International, which is both the largest hotel employer in Boston and the largest hotel chain in the world.
The Boston workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 26, which has led a series of strikes and near strikes in university dining operations over the last several years, most notably at Harvard University. The Marriott workers have been in negotiations with the company for a new contract since spring but remain far apart on a number of key issues, including retirement and access to health insurance benefits. The union has brought its demands together under the slogan “One Job Should Be Enough.” According to Brooke Melanson, a bartender at the Westin Waterfront, the pay from one job is not enough to survive in the expensive Boston metropolitan area. “I am striking because I have to work three jobs to try and cover all my family’s expenses,” said Melanson. “Just like any parent, I want time with my children to see them grow up.”
On October 4, Marriott workers in San Francisco and San Jose joined the strike. The hotels out on strike include the Marriott Marquis, Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the W, and the Westin St. Francis. Approximately 2500 workers are on strike across these hotels, bringing the total of number of Marriott strikers to over 4000. Anand Singh, president of San Francisco’s UNITE HERE Local 2, told a group of reporters that his union’s message to the Marriott corporation is that the union is “deadly serious about what we say.” Singh went on to say, “Our demands are not hollow demands and we will do whatever it takes.”
The strikes in Boston and California follow the citywide hotel strike in Chicago which began in early September. That strike, which originally involved 26 hotels, continues in four hotels at the time of writing. The Chicago strike did not specifically target the Marriott corporation, though several Marriott hotels which have now settled with UNITE HERE Local 1 were involved. UNITE HERE locals in several other major cities continue to negotiate with Marriott. Strike votes have been taken in Seattle, Detroit, Oakland and Hawaii. Workers in these cities could join the strike at any time.