Marriott Workers’ Strike Well-Timed for City’s Major Conferences

Nearly 2,500 hotel workers in the city walked off the job on Thursday, picketing at downtown hotels with bullhorns.

Miguel Medina, a banquet houseman for 15 years, leads a chant as workers with Unite Here Local 2 picket outside the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In what union organizers are deeming the city’s largest hotel strike in decades, roughly 2,500 Marriott workers at seven San Francisco hotels walked off the job on Thursday during a busy convention month.

Dozens of employees with signs and bullhorns picketed outside Marriott Marquis, the Palace Hotel, Courtyard Marriott Downtown, the St. Regis, the Westin St. Francis, the W and the Marriott Union Square in an indefinite strike to meet work demands. Major events are planned for the month and already the Shanti Project, a nonprofit, canceled its annual fundraising gala on Thursday in support of the strike.

A fully-book healthcare conference, IDWeek, is scheduled through the weekend while an anesthesiology conference is set for Oct. 13-17. Notably, Oracle’s OpenWorld is at the end of the month on Oct. 22-25 but it’s unclear how long the strike will last for — or how long the Marriott higher-ups will be able to stand the disruption to lucrative events. 

Union members with UNITE HERE Local 2, the union representing 2,300 hotel workers, authorized the strike last month after the company failed to agree to outlined higher wages and benefits, job security and workplace safety. Marriott workers have been working with a contract since Aug. 15, according to the union.

“After months of negotiations, Marriott’s disrespectful proposals still wouldn’t make one job enough for hotel workers to support a family,” said Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, in a statement. “We’re going to stay on the picket line until Marriott workers no longer need to work two or even three full-time jobs just to make ends meet.” 

Julian Penrose, a bellman at the W, says he has to work overtime to make enough to live on, which often means working 24-hour shifts — even 32 hours, like he did once. Some employees walked out as early as 3 a..m to join chants in a handful of languages, the Examiner reported.

“I’m on strike because my job at Marriott isn’t enough for my wife and I to even consider having kids,” Penrose said. “Marriott is the richest hotel company in the world, so I know they can afford to make one job enough for me and my coworkers to raise a family.  

In a statement to the Chronicle, Marriott said it was “disappointed” by the timing of the strike coinciding with several conventions taking place this week. 

“While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work,” the company said.

Marriott workers in San Jose and Boston also went on strike while additional strikes in Oakland, San Diego, Seattle, Honolulu, Maui, and Detroit are authorized. Employees striking at the seven hotels on Thursday could win concessions for their colleagues at 50 hotels in San Francisco in total — affecting 8,000 hotel workers.

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