Camucha King (middle right) and Nicole Drysdale (right) gesture in affirmation to a speaker during the public comment section of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. King and Drysdale work at the St. Regis hotel in the food and beverage department. J.P. Dobrin/KQED
Camucha King (middle right) and Nicole Drysdale (right) gesture in affirmation to a speaker during the public comment section of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. King and Drysdale work at the St. Regis hotel in the food and beverage department. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

Striking Hotel Workers Detail Hardships During Special Board Meeting at S.F. City Hall

Striking Hotel Workers Detail Hardships During Special Board Meeting at S.F. City Hall

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Hundreds of unionized hotel workers who have been striking at Marriott hotels in San Francisco for the last month flooded into San Francisco City Hall on Friday, revealing stories of hardships to get by in one of the most expensive regions in the country.

Members of Unite Here Local 2, who walked off the job starting in early October, wore red shirts with the words "one job should be enough" and shared their struggles before a special Board of Supervisors hearing.

Some of them cried as they described how tough it's been to get by, working several jobs on wages they consider too low, barely able to afford high rents and mortgages.

"I'm living on a razor's edge from one day to the next," said Nicholas Javier, a server at the Westin St. Francis who lives in a single-room-occupancy hotel.

Julian Penrose, a bellman at the W hotel, said he has to work multiple jobs.

Ronald Morales (right) waits in line with other hotel workers on strike to attend a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. Morales works at the W Hotel in San Francisco and has been a Marriott employee for 19 years. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

"I don't feel like my wife and I can afford to have children in this city," Penrose said.

"One job should be enough to make ends meet. One job should be enough to have a family, provide for your family ... to cover health care ... to retire in dignity," Penrose said.

"We live in a city where it's in demand to have two jobs: one just to pay rent and one for survival," said Diana Gochez, a hotel culinary worker.

The hearing came a day after San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson to "listen and work" with the union to help end the strike.

"The people who serve in our city's hotels and restaurants deserve to have one job that is enough to live on," Breed and Schaaf said in a letter to Sorenson.

A Marriott hotel employee is consoled after delivering a public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco City Hall on Nov. 2, 2018. Many longtime employees expressed frustration with their low wages and the cost of living in the Bay Area. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

A Marriott spokesperson said the company is reviewing the letter but would not comment on it.

The message from the two mayors came two days after Sorenson rejected an invitation to attend Friday's hearing. In his letter to Supervisor Hillary Ronen, Sorenson criticized Unite Here, said its members were well compensated, and accused its leadership of focusing on orchestrating a nationwide job action instead of working a contract out at the bargaining table.

"We hoped to reach an agreement months ago. Unfortunately, the union seemed more interested in participating in a long planned, multi-city, 23-hotel strike against Marriott than they were in engaging in any meaningful negotiations," Sorenson said in the letter.

Ronen and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman expressed outrage that Sorenson refused to attend the meeting.

"I'm incredibly disappointed, and in fact, insulted that you decided not to show up today," Ronen said.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen voices support for the striking Marriott workers at the beginning of a special supervisors meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

"I am just struck by the disrespect of this major international corporation," Mandelman said.

Close to 2,500 housekeepers, kitchen workers, bartenders and bellmen represented by Unite Here Local 2 walked off the job at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the W and the Westin St. Francis.

Similar strikes, involving other Unite Here local unions, have been taking place in Oakland, San Jose and several other cities around the country.

In San Francisco, the two sides have made progress on some sticking points, including job security and issues surrounding technology in the hotels, according to Unite Here Local 2 President Anand Singh.

But they are far apart on wages and health care, union officials have said.

"This is a crisis," Singh said. "This brazen position that this company has taken, an unreasonable position, has an impact on the entire industry."

Talks are expected to resume Nov. 12.

Marriott hotel workers on strike enter San Francisco City Hall to attend a special Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

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