Hundreds of Oakland employees join nationwide strike
Hundreds of employees at the Oakland Marriott City Center have been on strike daily for just under a month now. The picketers are loud and clear, striking from dusk to dawn seeking a new contract under the mantra “one job should be enough.”
“Marriott International made record profits for 2017, and they’re on pace for record profits in 2018. They can afford our reasonable demands. They’re just unwilling to meet them,” said Vernice Scott, a senior banquet server at the Oakland Marriott City Center.
Marriott International is the largest hotel company in the world and the enterprise accumulated a revenue of $22 billion in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Among these new contract demands are higher wages, protections from being replaced by technology and rules that protect them from sexual harassment and assault, according to Unite Here, a labor union that represents hotel workers.
The Oakland strikes began on Oct. 5, just one day after the strikes at the Marriott-affiliated hotels in San Francisco and San Jose took place, according to Unite Here Local 2850 organizer Francisca Carranza.
Bellhops, front-desk clerks, housekeepers and restaurant workers are seeking new contracts. Many of their most recent contracts expired as early as May.
Unite Here and Marriott have failed to reach a contract agreement that would meet the demands of the union’s workers.
Many service workers feel cheated by Marriott. Scott emphasized the need for affordable healthcare and fair wages because of the skyrocketing cost of living in Oakland, Calif.
“We need one wage to be able to live off, and afford our healthcare,” added Scott. “Most of the tip workers, which would be the servers in the restaurant, bartenders, banquet servers, and doormen don’t even make minimum wage.”
From 2017 to 2018 the average cost of renting a primary Bay Area residence rose by 5.7 percent, according to The Mercury News.
Local 2850 has not had a new contract since 2013 and very few workers have received a wage increase. This has required many workers to hold several jobs due increased living expenses in Oakland despite Marriott’s big profits.
“Half of our department has to work another job,” shared Scott. “I had to clean homes on my own, and then work as a banquet server to make it.”
Marriott has also tried extensively to cut the number of employees through tactics and technology. One of these tactics was called “Make a Green Choice Program” which rewards guests with benefits if they decline housekeeping services.
Marriott adopted this program to seem environmentally friendly, however, it was nothing but a coverup for limiting employees. Housekeepers have experienced up to a 20 percent decrease of their hours, as reported by Berkeley Daily Planet.
It is only a matter of time until technology is extensively implemented at the Oakland Marriott City Center.
“They are trying to bring the new technology,” said Safi Jami, a food server at the Oakland Marriott City Center. “But some of the Marriott’s, like in Vegas they have a little robot to carry towels and coffee. So, this is a threat to our job security.”
Unite Here has requested for Marriott hotels to provide “panic buttons” in case a guest becomes aggressive or violent and a worker needs to protect themselves from harassment or sexual assault, according to CBS Money Watch.
“There is always a chance and you have to protect the employee,” said Jami. “Whether it is a physical attack, verbal attack, or sexual attack. So of course, we support the panic button just in case anything happens they can get some help.”
Unite Here conducted a survey and found that 63 percent of workers in the hospitality industry had experienced sexual harassment or assault from a member of the public, according to National Public Radio.
“We are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike at this time. During the strike our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests,” said Marriott International in a statement to USA Today addressing the strikes. “While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work.”
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