Marriott Hotel Strike Spreads to Oakland

A sign is posted in front of a Marriott hotel on Nov. 16, 2015, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Updated Friday Oct. 5, 12:55 p.m.

Close to 200 hotel workers employed at the Oakland Marriott City Center walked off the job Friday, joining more than 2,500 Marriott workers who went on strike in San Francisco and San Jose the day before.

The Oakland workers are represented by Unite Here, the same union that represents Marriott employees who have walked off the job across the bay and in Boston.

Workers strike outside the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2018. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

"As the cost of living skyrockets in Oakland and the hotel industry is booming, many hotel workers cannot afford to live in the city where they work," said Wei-Ling Huber, president of Unite Here Local 2850.

In the five years since Local 2850 workers' last contract, Marriott's revenues have increased and so have the Bay Area's rents, Huber said.

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"Workers' wages did not keep pace with that," she said.

Many of the local union's members have to hold several jobs to get by, according to Vernice Scott, a banquet server at the Oakland Marriott.

Scott says she decided to walk off the job "because I had to let the largest hotel company in the world know that they have plenty of money."

"They have more to give," Scott said. "I believe they see us as numbers and not as human beings with needs."

In San Francisco, Unite Here Local 2 announced Thursday morning that the employees walked off the job about two weeks after they overwhelmingly voted to authorize the action.

Union officials have said they want higher wages for the company's housekeepers, kitchen workers, bartenders and bellmen who work for one of the largest hotel employers in the city.

"It's unacceptable that hotel workers struggle to survive while Marriott rakes in billions," Unite Here Local 2 President Anand Singh said in a statement Thursday.

"Our strike is sure to disrupt the lucrative hospitality industry — but it needs disrupting," Singh said.

Lisa Correa, a banquet server picketing outside the Marriott Marquis, said she and other workers can barely get by.

"They are squeezing us dry," Correa said. "We have to work two and three jobs to sustain a livable life here in the Bay Area."

Nix Guirre is a butler at the St Regis. She said she’s striking because with wages as they are at Marriott hotels, she can’t afford to save for her future.

"They expect us to provide five-star service. We serve a lot of politicians and celebrities and athletes. But why should they expect us to provide the five-star service if we, ourselves, are suffering," Guirre said.

Nix Guirre, 27, is a butler at the St. Regis in San Francisco, and she says she’s striking because with wages as they are at Marriott hotels, she can’t afford to save for her future. Close to 2,500 hotel workers at seven Marriott hotels in San Francisco went on strike on Oct. 4. 2018, according to Unite Here Local 2. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

Workers for Marriott have walked off the job in San Jose and Boston. Unionized hotel employees of the company in Oakland, San Diego, Seattle, Detroit, Honolulu and Maui have also authorized strikes, according to Unite Here.

The San Francisco strike has no time limit, according to a union organizer.

The company emphasizes that its hotels will keep operating during the walkout.

"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," Marriott International said in a statement.

"While we respect our associates' rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work," the company said.

City officials in Oakland and San Francisco have not gotten involved in the hotel labor talks, according to union officials.

Mayors London Breed, Libby Schaaf and Sam Liccardo have yet to comment on the strikes.

Officials with associations representing the city's tourism and hotel industries, San Francisco Travel and the Hotel Council of San Francisco declined to comment on the strike.

A representative for one of the region's leading business groups, the Bay Area Council, said he hoped for a speedy resolution to the dispute.

"The tourism and hospitality industry is a major economic driver for San Francisco and the region," said the council's Rufus Jeffris.

"It's not just the hotel workers and the hotels that get hurt. There is collateral damage to many who rely on the hospitality and tourism industry, from the many local vendors that provide services to the hotels to the restaurants and other businesses that rely on the guests staying at those hotels," Jeffris said.

In San Francisco, Unite Here Local 2 workers are striking 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.

The union began negotiating with Marriott in June. The workers have been working without a contract since Aug. 15.