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Over the weekend, Marriott strikes concluded in the cities of Oakland, California, and Detroit. But in six other cities, the protests continue, as workers now enter their second month of picketing. It’s the largest multicity hotel strike in American history.
“The progress has been very slow in most cities,” said Rachel Gumpert, the national press secretary for Unite Here, the organization that represents workers in a variety of hospitality industries. “The movement we did get in Oakland and Detroit, the contracts are fantastic. We wouldn’t have settled if they weren’t. [But] that came after weeks and months of Marriott not making serious progress. There is still time for [Marriott] to do the right thing … in the other cities. Clearly, they are capable of being reasonable if they want to be.”
In early October, more than 7,700 hotel workers at Marriott properties in eight major cities — Boston; Detroit; San Francisco; San Jose, California; Oakland; San Diego; and Honolulu and Lahaina, both in Hawaii — coordinated massive walkouts. The properties affected range from Westins and Sheratons to the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common and the St. Regis San Francisco.
And travelers are feeling it.
No Sunset in Oahu
Michael Kelly recently spent two nights at the Sheraton Waikiki in Oahu. He said protesters surrounded the pool around 6pm each night, and stayed through sunset.
“They had folding chairs they would unfold and slam with drumsticks and mallets, trash-can lids they would bang together, multiple megaphones for constant chanting, and large, empty buckets they used as drums. They were obstructing guests from … taking pictures and enjoying the sunset. It would have been really nice to have been told this could happen, or offered something for the impact on our experience — especially at sunset on the island!”
Marriott insists that it’s mostly business as usual. When TPG reached out to Marriott about the service interruptions and the chain’s plan for notifying travelers, Marriott replied with a statement: “All hotels where strikes are taking place remain open and welcoming guests. At many of the hotels, service levels remain intact.”
Yet Kelly’s experience was echoed by a number of TPG readers.
In advance of his stay at the Sheraton Back Bay in Boston, Ted D. emailed the property about the protests and whether or not they would impact his reservation. He never heard back, and kept his reservation.
“The service was not good,” Ted said, explaining there was “no club room, no restaurant, only breakfast, and the market was only open a few hours a day.”
Like Kelly, Ted received neither a warning nor compensation from Sheraton.
Meanwhile, after checking in to the W San Francisco, Cory L. ended up switching hotels.
“Terrible service,” he said. “Bar closed early every day, [and] my room was cleaned once.”
Brad S. also ran into trouble during his trip to Hawaii: “Worst Marriott stay of my life — ruined my Hawaiian vacation with my wife.
Brad, a guest at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, ran into similar reticence from Marriott. He wasn’t offered compensation for a stay during which his “wife had to be a housekeeper for a week,” and he didn’t receive any communications from the hotel about the impact the strike might have on his experience or the level of service.
And TPG contributor Angelina Aucello explicitly inquired about the protests with the Moana Surfrider prior to a scheduled stay in late October. She was assured the “strikes would be minimal or not impact her stay at all.”
But online reviews told a different story: all-day riots, zero housekeeping, total chaos. Before arrival, Aucello decided to move to a nearby hotel.
“I was proactive, even though they assured me nothing would be impacted,” she said.
Gumpert told TPG the strikes aren’t meant to disrupt travelers’ vacations. Instead, they’re about so-called workplace stoppage.
“This is about sending corporate executives a message and saying workers are unified,” she said. “Managers are barely even able to keep hotels open. Many restaurants are fully or partially closed. In many cities, housekeeping has been fully suspended.”
The problem, said Gumpert, is that hotel managers are not “fulfilling their due diligence of informing guests of the strike.”
And Marriott certainly had plenty of time to do so. In early July, Unite Here issued a statement warning travelers that a “major labor dispute” was looming when union contracts for hotels across the nation expired.
“[Protestors] aren’t trying to antagonize guests. We hope guests will be allies,” Gumpert said. “But the real impact of the strike is inside the hotels, where service is ground to a standstill.”
Despite the bleak reports, Marriott remains unwavering.
“Where there may be altered services, the limited availability of the service may be short-lived and not impact the guest experience,” Marriott told TPG in a statement. “In the event a guest feels their experience did not meet their expectation, the hotel would address this as they do any other guest concern, on a case-by-case basis.”
If you have had a trip disrupted by the Marriott strikes, your best course of action is to communicate immediately with a manager while you’re still at the property. Though it sounds like few travelers have received reimbursement of any kind, successful negotiations have been reported. Gumpert said Unite Here is encouraging travelers who have to cross picket lines to ask for a free room or a discount.
And though travelers have painted a damaging portrait of Marriott’s inaction, people who cross the lines have reported harassment from the other side, too. Sylvia S. said the picketers she encountered in Boston were “loud, rude and even blocking all the paths so [people] literally have to walk in the street to get past.” And in Oakland, Jimmy R. described protestors as “intimidating and mean.”
What Hotel Workers Want
Hotel workers are protesting for a number of reasons. Though the strikes have largely been seen as a crusade for higher wages (it’s labeled the One Job Should Be Enough campaign), the particulars vary from city to city.
Job security, protections from automation and sexual harassment, health-care benefits — even Marriott’s Make a Green Choice program — are up for debate.
Gumpert said the hospitality company’s sustainability initiative has been especially tricky for workers. MAGC incentivizes travelers to reduce their carbon footprint by forgoing full housekeeping services. As a result, Gumpert said, housekeepers are being eliminated, while those that remain are no longer working full-time hours. And when they do work, those conditions become grueling, as they’re expected to clean extra-messy rooms in the same time they would normally clean a well-maintained room.
“We’re not calling for an end to the program. We’re open to a whole range [of compromises],” Gumpert said. “But we haven’t seen much interest from Marriott in doing that.”
Gumpert said that over the next week-and-a-half, Unite Here and Marriott executives, labor management and human resources teams will sit down at the negotiation table again to discuss the contracts of the thousands of workers still on strike. The discussions will go city by city.
“We want to find a resolution with Marriott,” Gumpert said, “[But] we are prepared to strike for as long as it takes.”
Strikes at Oakland Marriott City Center by Marriott and Westin Book Cadillac Detroit by Marriott have ended, but the fight continues at 21 hotels across the country. Travelers with reservations at any of the following hotels may want to consider rebooking with a different property.
- Aloft Boston Seaport by Marriott
- Element Boston Seaport by Marriott
- Ritz-Carlton Boston Common by Marriott
- Sheraton Boston by Marriott
- W Boston by Marriott
- Westin Boston Waterfront by Marriott
- Westin Copley Place, Boston by Marriott
- The Westin Gaslamp Quarter San Diego by Marriott
- San Francisco Marriott Union Square
- Palace Hotel by Marriott
- W San Francisco by Marriott
- Westin St. Francis Union Square by Marriott
- San Francisco Marriott Marquis
- Courtyard San Francisco Downtown by Marriott
- St. Regis San Francisco
San Jose, California
- San Jose Marriott
- The Royal Hawaiian by Marriott
- Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort by Marriott
- Sheraton Princess Kaiulani by Marriott
- Sheraton Waikiki by Marriott
- Sheraton Maui Hotel by Marriott
Feature photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.
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