Three weeks on the picket line will either weaken a strike or make it stronger. But workers at the Marriott hotels in eight cities around the US show no signs of wanting to go back to work anytime soon, at least not without resolving the reasons why they went on strike to begin with. Instead, the noise on the picket line is getting louder. Workers bang on pots, drums -- even old folding chairs -- making a racket loud enough to penetrate thick walls and double-paned windows. As a result, many hotel guests not dissuaded by their initial encounters with picketing workers are giving up and leaving. “Over 20 guests have told me they’re checking out and moving to the Waterfront Hotel,” said Kenneth Walker, the veteran head doorman at the Marriott City Center Hotel in Oakland, California. The Waterfront Hotel, just a dozen blocks down Broadway, is not on strike. It’s not just happening in Oakland. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Roland Li reports that organizers of the 2018 ComNet conference (a network of foundations and non-profits discussing better communications), which normally draws 1,000 attendees, moved their events out of the struck St. Francis Hotel. The St. Francis used to be a Westin property, but became part of the 700-hotel Marriott empire when Westin was bought out by what is now the world’s largest hotel chain. Other organizations pulling out of commitments at the Bay Area Marriotts include the Human Rights Campaign, the Shanti Project, the Chicana Latina Foundation and Bay Area Wilderness Training. In response, a huge wave of robocalls is hitting thousands of people in the region, trying to lure them into the Marriotts with offers of special deals.
However, not everyone is avoiding the hotels where workers are on strike. For instance, in Boston, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers did not cancel hotel reservations for their baseball teams. Instead, ballplayers, themselves members of a union, snuck into the rear entrances of struck hotels as workers yelled questions to them about their apparent lack of solidarity. To get Marriott’s directors to pay attention to the union’s demands, the picket lines have been augmented by street actions and marches. Forty-one hotel strikers and supporters were arrested on October 12 for sitting on Fourth Street in front of Marriott’s San Francisco flagship, the Marquis
The slogan underlines the main demand by Unite Here in negotiations -- enough pay so that workers don’t have to work a second job in order to survive.
While Unite Here locals in each city holds bargaining talks for the hotels located there, the strike has coordinated actions by more than 7,700 workers in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, Detroit, Boston, Maui and Honolulu. Seattle Marriott workers have also voted to authorize a strike. Local 2’s strategy, helping workers organize in the middle of a strike, contradicts accepted wisdom among some organizers, who fear managers will use strike threats to discourage workers from union support. Local 2 organizers say their experience is the opposite -- that the strike shows that the union is willing and able to fight for improvements against their employer. In Oakland, Marriott workers are experiencing their first strike. At the beginning, they were unsure if the rest of the workers would support them, even though the strike vote was 98 percent in favor. “We weren’t really prepared for this on the first day,” said Tony Scott, a bellman for 35 years. Lee adds, “I came to work on Friday [October] 5th, and when it was time, I went in and told my coworkers to come out. I wasn’t sure they would. When they all did, I felt I was 10 feet tall.”
Striking workers and supporters sit down in Fourth Street in San Francisco in an act of civil disobedience to dramatize the impact of the strike against Marriott hotels.
Strikers sit in outside the flagship Marriott on Fourth Street in San Francisco. Anand Singh, president of Unitehere Local 2, is arrested.