For 61 days, hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE local 2 in San Francisco walked the picket line, marched with community organizations and other supporters, and pulled together in a hotel strike that forced important concessions from hotel bosses. In one of the most unaffordable cities in the country, the hotel workers demanded that “One job should be enough.” They took on the largest hotel chain in the world, the Marriott, and they won.
Nicholas Javier, a server and member of Unite Here Local 2’s bargaining committee said: “I feel comfortable saying we reached a place that feels fair to all of our basic, core demands. We’re stronger now than ever.” (Eater)
On Monday Dec 3, the workers approved the new contract with a 99.6 percent yes vote. The new contract raises wages by 1.76 an hour, retroactive to August. Over the next four years, the overall raise will be $4 an hour, bringing the median hourly wage to $27. It also brand new includes protections from sexual harassment, installing panic buttons and consequences for guests who harass or assault workers. There will be no increase in worker healthcare contributions. The contract also addresses cuts based on automation; The hotel must give workers 6 months notice before any hour cuts or job losses based on automation.
According to 2003 California Employment Development Department numbers, there were 17,500 hotel workers in San Francisco. UNITE HERE Local 2 represents 8,000 hotel workers.
The San Francisco Local 2 strike was one of eight strikes in cities where hotel workers withheld their labor following months of unsuccessful negotiations with the company in order to win a decent contract. Marriott runs 5,000 hotels in the United States and Canada. The contract struggle affected 40 of them. In all eight cities, workers have won significant gains after strikes lasting different amounts of time.
Marriott International is the most profitable hotel corporation in the world, and is valued at $49.4 billion. It recorded $3.2 billion in profits in 2017. The workers who make all that wealth possible have been working for wages that don’t cover their basic needs or those of their families. The UC Berkeley Labor Center completed a statistical analysis showing that hotel workers wage prior to the strike were not sufficient to meet the needs of even single hotel workers, much less those with families.
After the contract expired over the summer, Marriott executives and their representatives offered the hotel workers a minimal deal given the conditions they are facing. The workers were forced to take greater action. They voted to strike in late September and walked off the job on October 4. Striking is not easy. But the workers and the union effectively organized to maintain the strike during one of the busiest convention seasons for SF hotels, with active pickets even on Thanksgiving. A number of marches were joined by other union locals and thousands of supporters to bring attention to the strike struggle and build even greater support. The strike had its effect–as Marriott saw its stock prices dropping after record highs–and a tentative agreement reached on the morning of Dec. 3. The gains won in the new contract are a testament to the power of workers’ organizations when they mobilize to serve the interests of the workers they represent.
Local 2 President Anand Singh had this to say in a Tweet: “Now we turn to the remaining 5,500 UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers who are still working with expired contracts. To the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Fairmont, we say – we’ve got a deal. This is the deal.”