Largest strike in history yields higher pay, safer work conditions for hotel workers
on December 10, 2018
In October, more than 7,700 hotel workers across the country walked off of their jobs, as employees who are part of the labor union Unite Here began the largest strike in history against the largest hotel corporation in the world, Marriott. Workers in seven cities, including Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco, remained on the picket line in the hope of signing a new contract. The key issues on the bargaining table: economic fairness, safe workloads, and job security.
“I am on strike because they do not want to give us a raise. We need just one job to be able to provide for our families,” said housekeeper Elvia Angulo, who has been working at the Oakland Marriott for the past 15 years.
Representatives from Marriott declined to give interviews for this story, but issued a statement saying they “are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike.”
Angulo says that while working at the Oakland Marriott, she found herself in situations where she did not feel safe. “A guest asked me how long it would take for me to clean a room, so I told him 20 to 30 minutes. He asked me if I could use the 30 minutes to do something else for him, Angulo said.
“I told him no and left the room,” she continued. “I did report him. My manager told me to take my time to calm down and to go back to work. I told him no. I preferred to miss a day of work than to be disrespected.”
Another issue was the hotel chain’s Green Choice program, which allows guest to opt out of daily cleaning services in exchange for rewards points. While the program is meant to be eco-friendly, it creates a stressful situation for the hotel staff, because once guests check out, multiple days’ worth of cleaning must be packed into one day.
While the strike was in action, Oakland voters were also asked to support hotel workers through a November ballot measure known as Measure Z. The measure, which passed with 74 percent of the vote, will require Oakland hotels with 50 or more guest rooms to set a minimum wage of $15 per hour with healthcare benefits, or $20 per hour if they do not provide health coverage, and incorporate workload restrictions. Under the new local regulation, hotel workers will be provided with a panic button to report threats if they ever feel unsafe while interacting with guests.
The measure will into effect on December 21, after the Oakland City Council certifies the election results, but the wages increase portion of the measure will not begin until July, 1, 2019.
After more than a month on the picket line, union representatives from UniteHere in all seven cities, slowly came to agreements with Marriott, with Oakland leading the way. On December 3, Marriott’s contract agreement with San Francisco brought an end to the nationwide strike.
Under their new contract, hotel workers will receive higher wages, more affordable healthcare, and some relief from the work demands of the Green Choice program.
The video was produced and edited by Alondra De La Cruz and Hyowon Lihinag-Tam. The text was written by Alondra De La Cruz.
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