Mayor Rallies With Marriott Strikers as Negotiations Relaunch

The nearly 2,500 workers entering their 40th day of striking have strong backing from San Francisco politicians.

Mayor London Breed joined Marriott strikers on Monday to call for a fair labor contract as negotiations resume for the first time since September.

Almost 2,500 Marriott workers entered their 40th day on strike as they rallied at Yerba Buena Gardens, sacrificing incomes to picket all seven downtown hotels each day with a sea of signs reading, “One job should be enough.” After weeks of canceled conferences and angry hotel guests caught off guard, Marriott came back to the negotiating table on Monday and Tuesday as picket lines briefly merged in a show of strength.

“We go back to the table not in a position to take whatever they give us, but with the wind on our backs,” said UNITE HERE Local 2 President Anand Singh. “We are winning every day.”

Workers in Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, and Detroit also on strike received a reprieve in the form of a settlement with Marriott. While the details are undisclosed, Singh says workers are “very happy.” Honolulu, Maui, Boston, and San Francisco remain on strike.

Earlier this month, Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged Marriot executives to negotiate a contract and end the strike, which organizers are calling San Francisco’s largest hotel strike in decades.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks to striking Marriott hotel workers. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

“I want you to know that the mayor of San Francisco stands with you,” Breed told strikers on Monday. As for Marriot, she asks “to be fair, to be just, and to be sure that one job is enough.”

UNITE HERE Local 2’s key priorities for San Francisco workers are affordable health care, fair wages, and safe workloads. Healthcare remains the toughest issue, as costs that are expected to rise would fall on workers, not Marriott.

During his 29 years with Marriott, Alfredo Calderon has faced a broken shoulder, elbow injury, chronic back pain, and even broke both his feet in a slip-and-fall that rendered him unable to work for three years. He works 80 hours a week between Marriott Marquis and the Palace Hotel, averaging four to six hours of sleep a night, in order to stay afloat in San Francisco. 

“Imagine you work 16 hours and you don’t sleep and you have to be focused at your job,” Calderon tells SF Weekly. “We have no choice.”

Still, he’s prepared to strike until a reasonable contract comes through despite being anxious to return to work. Because he sends money to 8 family members in Mexico, including his two children and medicine-depending parents, Calderon has had to borrow money to pay for his bills while on strike. 

“The bank doesn’t care,” he says. “It’s a sacrifice for everyone.”

Strikers did receive some good news from Singh on Monday: the independent trust fund that manages benefits has extended their healthcare to last until the end of January. The benefits were set to expire at the end of November, which would have made striking even more difficult.

The strike has caught the attention of the Board of Supervisors, which quickly scheduled a rare Friday hearing earlier this month — one that Marriott didn’t attend, rebuffing requests by Supervisors Hillary Ronen. Hundreds testified about low pay, high healthcare costs, and job insecurity. 

“You can be a leader and you can show other companies what it means to actually respect the people who make you a profitable company,” Ronen directed at Marriott. “When thousands of San Franciscans feel the need to lay down their tools and walk off the job it is a sign that something is not right in our city.”

Marriott employees in San Francisco make an average of $44,000 while CEO Aren Sorensen makes $13 million annually, UNITE Here Local 2 President Anand Singh testified at the hearing. The corporation as a whole is worth more than $49 billion, with more employees than Google, Salesforce, and Facebook combined.

The rally on Monday full of collective clanging, picket signs, and drumming for less than half an hour — they have to keep consistent pressure on Marriott where they’re at, after all.

“Alright, let’s get back to the picket line,” Singh told strikers. 

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