Last week, more than 8,000 members of Unite Here, the union that represents hotel workers, voted to strike against Marriott International properties whose contracts have expired in various locations. On Oahu and Maui, the measure passed by 95 percent; 96 percent of Boston workers voting authorized a potential strike; about 2,500 Marriott workers in San Francisco Unite Here Local 2 authorized a strike with a 98.6 percent vote. Unite Here said more than 12,000 workers currently are working under expired contracts. According to the union, strikes in the six locations where votes took place last week -- including San Jose, Calif., and Seattle -- could occur at any time, and might not be announced in advance.
"We've had a stunning turnout," said Rachel Gumpert, national press secretary for Unite Here. "There's a lot of pride in standing up to the bosses on this. We've seen a lot of selfies and high-fives." She added, "We've been in negotiation with Marriott for over a year in some of these cities. We are not making progress on the most important issues."
Those issues most crucial to the union are upgrades to workplace safety, especially for women working in hotels; wages, particularly in cities where hotel employees have trouble affording to live within a modest commute to the property; and a seat at the table as decisions are made on bringing in new technologies and automation to hotel jobs. "We are pushing for technology that will make the jobs easier," said Gumpert. "But we also want notice in advance for job changes, and we want to make sure workers whose jobs might change have ample notice to be retrained."
Unions recently voted to approve new contracts at Walt Disney World, which, among other details, will increase the starting minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next three years, while enabling Disney to use more part-time workers and require new workers to stay in their positions longer before transferring. Viewing this as a major victory for the workers, Gumpert noted that the unions were in negotiations with Disney for more than a year. "I think this gives momentum to the people working for Marriott... Unite Here is very organized across the country, and we're not willing to continue settling."
A Marriott spokesperson said the company plans to continue talks in good faith. "Through many years of working with Unite Here, we have always taken the negotiation process seriously and reached agreements," Allison Sitch, vice president of public relations for the Americas for Marriott, told M&C. "We have no reason to believe that this negotiation process will be any different. We respect the right of our associates to voice their opinions on issues that are important to them. Should the union and our employees choose to strike, our hotels will continue to operate and work to minimize any disruption and to provide the excellent service that our guests have come to expect."
The Marriott strike votes come in the midst of a major citywide hotel strike in Chicago, now in its second week, affecting 26 hotels of various brands.
Outside of Chicago, union contracts with Marriott have expired at properties in Boston; Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.; Seattle; and a few locations in Hawaii. When a contract expires, or when workers are not under contract, those workers could vote to strike, picket or take other actions of protest.
As of Sept. 17, the following Marriott properties are at risk of a labor dispute. Up-to-date information can be found here.
• Aloft Boston Seaport
• Element Boston Seaport
• Renaissance Boston Waterfront
• Ritz-Carlton Boston Common
• Sheraton Boston
• W Boston
• Westin Boston Waterfront
• Westin Copley Place, Boston
• Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
• Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort
• Royal Hawaiian Waikiki, A Luxury Collection Resort
• Sheraton Kauai
• Sheraton Maui Hotel
• Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
• Sheraton Waikiki
• Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
• Oakland Marriott City Center
• Westin Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
• Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Downtown
• Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel
• San Francisco Marriott Union Square
• San Francisco Marriott Marquis
• St. Regis San Francisco
• W San Francisco
• Westin St. Francis Union Square
San Jose, Calif.
• San Jose Marriott
• Westin Seattle