San Francisco Workers Stay Out But Partially Mariott Strikes Started to EndNovember 30, 2018
The first thing that the wedding planner Lauren Carson noticed at the end of eight weeks of strikes against Marriott hotels in Hawaii was the quiet. The “incessant noise” from the picket lines was gone.
“I drove into Waikiki and it was so quiet and peaceful and back to normal,” she said. “It was so nice.”
With the settlement reached Tuesday for 2,700 workers at five resorts in Oahu and Maui, only hotels in San Francisco and Chicago are still being picketed after walkouts at 49 hotels in nine cities that began in September. The majority of the strikers, 7,700 people at 23 properties, were in a dispute with Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, which had net profits in 2017 of $1.37 billion.
Ms. Carson, who owns Weddings of Hawaii, said she had to rearrange 15 to 20 dinners and receptions at venues that closed because of the strike. The hotels involved were the Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Waikiki, all in Honolulu, as well as the Sheraton Maui Hotel in Lahaina.
“We had one group that was about 35 people and with only two days we had to find somewhere that could accommodate them,” she said. The couple received an apology from the Sheraton Waikiki, which also returned about $5,000 in deposits, Ms. Carson said.
As travel moves into one of its busiest seasons of the year, according to AAA, the automotive and travel organization, here’s what’s happening with the strike.
What’s going on with the remaining strikers?
Negotiations are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco between Marriott officials and Unite Here, the union representing 2,500 workers who walked out on Oct. 4 at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the W and the Westin St. Francis.
“It’s hard to predict but with the holidays coming we are hopeful we’ll see some movement this weekend,” a union spokeswoman, Rachel Gumpert, said.
A Marriott spokeswoman, Connie Kim, wouldn’t address whether bookings had been affected by the strike, but said that the hotels remain open, and that 32 other Marriott-managed properties in the San Francisco area were not involved in labor disputes.
The union members got a boost recently when the San Francisco Culinary Bartenders & Service Employees Welfare Fund said it would continue the strikers’ health care benefits for December and January, if necessary.
More than 100 San Francisco workers have been arrested and accused of blocking streets and other acts since the contract with Marriott ended there in August.
In Chicago, a citywide strike that started in September didn’t focus on any particular employer, but at its peak affected 26 hotels in a dispute over health care coverage. There, workers at the Cambria Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile, part of the Choice Hotels International chain, remain on strike, while United Here reached a deal with the other hotels.
What’s the dispute about?
In San Francisco, issues include health care coverage and wages, which the union said haven’t kept up with the cost of living in the Bay Area. When the previous contract expired, the median income for its employees was $44,000, the union said. The housekeepers also want better protection from sexual harassment, and more time to clean the rooms that aren’t serviced daily as part of Marriott’s “Make A Green Choice” program, which offers incentives to guests who forgo daily housekeeping.
Marriott International has management or franchise agreements with about 6,700 hotels under 30 brands in 130 countries and territories.
What did the settlements include?
Details of the financial packages with Marriott won’t be released until an agreement is reached in San Francisco. But deals have been reached covering 5,200 employees at 16 Marriott-operated properties, including seven in Boston, and one hotel each in Detroit, San Jose, Calif., Oakland, Calif., and San Diego.
All of the contracts with Marriott thus far cover job security, worker involvement in the use of technology and a reduction in workload for housekeepers, the union said. Although Hawaii doesn’t have the “Make A Green Choice” program, the room quota for housekeepers there was reduced by one room per day, to 13 rooms, at most of the hotels.
The new contracts also mean that housekeepers will be provided with a silent panic button to summon help if they feel threatened, in an effort to address sexual harassment. And in a move to address the effects of mass incarceration on job seekers, those with minor nonviolent drug offenses will be able to hold union jobs, Ms. Gumpert said.
In Hawaii and Boston, the deals also covered a so-called child/elder fund in which Marriott sets aside money to assist with the cost of caring for young children or older relatives, she said. Hawaii also included an increase in health and pension contributions.
“We’re pleased to have ratified contracts in both Boston and Hawaii and are welcoming associates back at work,” Ms. Kim, the Marriott spokeswoman, said.
What are the hotels doing for inconvenienced travelers?
Even with most of the hotels back to normal, the headache isn’t over for everyone. Rebecca Walsh of Sydney, Australia, and her friends stayed in three rooms at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani from Oct. 12 through 15. She complained on the hotel’s Facebook page about curtailed services and a noisy picket line.
“We can’t sit by the pool and have been woken by the protesters every morning,” she wrote, noting that the only compensation they got was a waiver of the $30 a day resort fee.
A few weeks later, the hotel contacted her, and after several delays, eventually offered to refund one night, or about $175, for each room, she said. However, the Sheraton Waikiki said that the refund would have to come from the booking site they had used, Amoma.com. Ms. Walsh said in an email that she doesn’t know where the bottleneck is, but she is still waiting for her money.