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Nearly 8,000 workers are striking at Marriott hotels. Here's what you should know

Nearly 8,000 workers are striking at Marriott hotels. Here's what you should know
Hotel workers picket in front of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco on Oct. 4. Higher salaries and technology that could make some hotel jobs obsolete are among the issues under negotiation. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

A strike of nearly 8,000 hotel workers at Marriott hotels in seven cities is forcing some hotel managers to close pools, cut back on restaurant service and urge guests to leave their rooms to get their own towels.

The demonstrations, which began about three weeks ago, involve workers at Marriott hotels in San Jose, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Honolulu, Detroit and Boston. The dispute centers on wages, worker safety and technology that could make some jobs redundant.

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Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel company, with about 6,700 properties in more than 130 countries, 177,000 employees and revenue of $22 billion in fiscal 2017.

Why are workers striking in Marriott hotels in seven cities at the same time?

Union contracts are negotiated with hotel companies by region. So, Unite Here, the labor union that represents hotel workers, has separate contract agreements with Marriott International in each city. By coincidence, the seven separate contracts for those seven cities expired within the same few months.

What are the primary issues under negotiation?

Unite Here representatives say they are pushing for higher wages so that workers won’t need to take on a second or third job to make ends meet.

The minimum hourly wage for workers in these hotels ranges from $15 to $22, depending on the job category and the city. Workers also want to be a part of the discussion when Marriott considers using technology to replace human workers, such as kiosks to replace front desk workers. “Before it happens, let us know,” said Rachel Gumpert, a spokeswoman for Unite Here. “We want to be part of the process in that evolution.”

Finally, at most Marriott brands, guests who agree to pass up daily room cleaning get rewarded with loyalty reward points under a program called “Make a Green Choice.” But housekeepers are expected to clean all rooms within 30 minutes, including those rooms that haven’t been cleaned in several days. The workers say they need more time to clean the extra-messy rooms, and that the rush to meet the deadline can be hazardous to housekeepers who often must move heavy furniture and lift mattresses quickly.

Can guests who stay at these Marriott hotels expect services to be disrupted?

Marriott management concedes that some services are “altered” but said in a statement that “where there is altered service, the limited service may be short-lived and not impact the guest experience.”

The workers union, however, has released photos of notices that the union says were distributed to guests at a few Marriott hotels in Hawaii and San Diego. The notices warn guests that service is limited or halted at some restaurants, pools, the valet curbs and at bars. At the Moana Surfrider hotel in Waikiki Beach, guests are instructed to go to the elevator landing in the hotel to pick up fresh towels, linen and soap.

What are the prospects of contract agreements being reached and the strikes ending soon?

Gumpert said Unite Here is optimistic about a resolution and Marriott added that management is “working to get this resolved as quickly as possible.” But even if a contract is reached in one or two of the seven cities, the strikes will continue in the other cities, Gumpert said. “Every affiliate authorizes strikes on their own accord,” she said.

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