Thousands of Marriott hotel workers strike in Boston, Northern California

Marriott International hotel employees on strike in Chicago have been joined by thousands of workers in San Francisco and Boston, who are picketing the company in a bid for higher wages and improved benefits.

Workers at all seven of Marriott’s hotels in Boston—an estimated 1,500 employees—have walked away from their positions as part of what Unite Here Local 2 union organizers are calling the first ever hotel strike in the city. The hotels affected by the strike include the Ritz Carlton, Boston; the Westin Boston Waterfront; and the Sheraton Boston.

Leaders of Unite Here Local 26 claim its members can no longer afford to live and work in Boston due to stagnated wages, and argue that Marriott can afford to increase worker pay. The union claims many workers are forced to take on more than one job, and new contract proposals from Marriott fail to improve the situation. In a statement, Marriott said its new contract proposal for union workers is in line with what was expected.

“We are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike at this time. Marriott’s current economic proposal matches the economic terms in the parties’ last contract, which included the largest increases in the parties’ bargaining history,” a spokesperson from Marriott said in a statement. “During the strike our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests. While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work.”

In Northern California, Unite Here Local 2 is leading roughly 2,500 Marriott hotel workers in picketing outside of seven hotels in downtown San Francisco. These properties are the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the W San Francisco, the Westin St. Francis Union Square, the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, the Courtyard San Francisco Downtown and the St. Regis San Francisco. 

Workers at the San Jose Marriott have also joined in the strike.

“For too long Marriott workers have struggled to get by, forced to work multiple jobs, sustaining workplace injuries, and having their hours cut, just to get by,” D. Taylor, president of the Unite Here union, said in a statement. “Today, thousands of Unite Here workers are in the streets striking Marriott across the country because Unite Here workers believe one job should be enough to live on.”

Meanwhile, strikes are ongoing at nine downtown Chicago hotels nearly a month after workers walked out. Marriott reached an agreement with the union early in the process, but workers continue to picket at three Hyatt Hotels Corporation hotels and several others.

From Unite Here’s comments, the root of these strikes lie in economic discrepancies that the hotel industry is well aware of. In mid-September, members of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association said the labor market remains a major challenge for hotel operators, with rising labor costs and a need for skilled workers an ongoing concern. These concerns were echoed at last month’s Lodging Conference, where Trump Hotel Group CEO Eric Danziger said the industry has failed to create positions that are attractive to U.S. workers.

The main reason these positions remain unattractive, he said, can be attributed to long hours, low pay and a lack of competitive benefits. Furthermore, as of April 2018 the U.S. unemployment rate reached 3.9 percent, meaning dissatisfied employees have the option of seeking new positions, and labor unions likely believe unemployment figures place them in a favorable position to bargain.

In a statement, Ted Waechter, a spokesman for San Francisco’s Unite Here union, said the city’s workers have no plan to capitulate.

“We’re going to stay on the lines until workers no longer have to work two or three jobs,” Waechter said in a statement. “This is not a limited-duration strike. We’re in it for the long haul.”