(This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)
Wave of Hotel Strikes
Hotel workers represented by Unite Here locals across the country rose up in September in a wave of worker militancy that led to work stoppages in eight major cities.
More than 11,000 hotel workers in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and in Hawaii were on strike in September. The strikes in Chicago affected hotels across the city. As of press time, all but one hotel strike in Chicago has been resolved, but strikes in Marriott hotels continue in the other cities.
Chicago workers are celebrating victory from their strikes, winning significant improvements to pay and benefits. A key union priority in Chicago was winning guaranteed maintenance of good health care coverage during the winter months, when hotel business slows and some workers are temporarily laid off.
The Marriott strikers have rallied around their strike slogan, “One Job Should Be Enough!” Workers say that one job, with the largest hospitality chain in the world, should be enough to support them and their families.
Hotel workers often suffer from low pay, erratic scheduling and insufficient hours. “I am striking because I have to work three jobs to try and cover all my family’s expenses,” Brooke Melanson, a striking worker in Boston, said in a statement. “Just like any parent, I want time with my children to see them grow up. We hear all the time how well Marriott is doing. We want Marriott to recognize our contribution to their success.”
“Marriott is the richest and most profitable hotel company in the world, and by taking them on in this historic hotel worker strike, UNITE HERE union members are going to change the lives of all workers in our industry,” Donald ‘D.’ Taylor, President of UNITE HERE told USA Today.
Union contracts with Marriott expired in July and August. The work stoppage has been marked by impressive acts of militancy. Picket lines at struck hotels have run non-stop. On Labor Day, 75 workers were arrested in San Francisco for blocking a street leading to the Westin St. Francis, a Marriott property.
In addition to better pay and scheduling, workers have put health and safety issues at the front of their demands. Housekeepers in particular are demanding relief from back-breaking assignments that frequently lead to injury and additional protection on the job from sexual harassment and violence that often plagues workers in their position.
“For the Marriott corporation this is about dollars and cents, but for our hotel workers it is about our families, our livelihoods and our children,” Anand Singh, President of UNITE HERE Local 2 told a San Francisco CBS station.
McDonald's Workers Strike Over Harassment
McDonald’s workers across the country, many of whom have been leading the Fight for $15 and a union campaign against the fast food giant, struck in September to draw attention to rampant abuse and harassment that they face on the job.
Led by women’s committees of McDonald’s workers, the strikers are calling on McDonald’s to beef up their stance against on the job sexual harassment. Many of the strikers are also party to a pending lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, filed in May, which alleged rampant sexual harassment of line workers in the burger chain.
Bourbon Workers Strike Beat 2-Tier Proposals
Workers at Four Roses Distillery ended a two-week strike in September at the Kentucky bourbon maker after their employer attempted to impose a two-tier sick-leave policy in contract negotiations. Currently workers are able to accumulate sick leave which they rely on in case of serious illness or injury. Four Roses had proposed that new hires not be permitted to bank unused leave, and instead be forced onto short-term disability.
Once workers walked off the job, “these guys [Four Roses management] understood how serious we were about that,” Jeff Royalty, UFCW Local 10D President said in an interview.
The company’s proposal would have cost sick and injured workers as much as half their pay in cases of extended leave. And workers recognized that a two-tier system would divide workers and weaken their future bargaining power. “This fight isn’t over money, we just need this twotiered system stuff to go away,” Royalty said.
The workers, represented by two UFCW locals and a local of the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers/SEIU, ratified a new five-year master agreement after the strike concluded.
President Dimondstein Writes Letter of Solidarity to Canadian Union of Postal Workers
As this issue went to press, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers started rolling 24-hour strikes in rotating cities throughout Canada. Click here to read President Dimondstein's letter of solidarity written to CUPW President Mike Palecek, CUPW Executive Board, and CUPW members.