MARRIOTT WORKERS: “ONE JOB SHOULD BE ENOUGH!”

Photographs by David Bacon
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HONOLULU, HI – 16MAY18 – Hotel workers in Hawaii are protesting low wages that force many workers to work an additional job besides their job at the hotel. Copyright David Bacon

On June 27 thousands of union and non-union Marriott workers organized demonstrations in San Francisco, Oakland, Honolulu, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Jose. Workers carried signs saying, “One Job Should Be Enough!” About 20,000 Marriott workers are represented by Unite Here. As contract negotiations get underway, some 12,000 of those employees have contracts expiring later this year.

Marriott is the largest and richest hotel company on the planet, earning $22.9 billion in 2017. Profits have gone up 279% since the recession, while hotel workers’ annual income only increased 7%.

According to D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE, “Too often workers welcome guests to Marriott hotels and deliver an unforgettable experience to them, just to leave their shift and go to a second job because working full time for Marriott isn’t enough to make ends meet.”

Marriott became the biggest global hotel chain when it acquired Starwood for $13.6 billion in 2016. The company’s 30 brands include Ritz-Carlton, Westin and Sheraton, accounting for more than 1.2 million rooms in over 6500 hotels in 127 countries and territories. It opens a new hotel every 18 hours.

Technology is transforming hotel work, with self-check-in kiosks, robot room-service delivery, and mechanical bartenders. In negotiations, workers want guarantees that jobs will not only pay enouogh to live on, but will last during this period of change.

Meanwhile, hotel work is not just underpaid, but is dangerous. In Chicago the union found roughly half of hotel housekeepers had been the victims of sexual misconduct from guests. One man assaulted housekeepers in DC eight times over eight years. A Florida Marriott worker was assaulted in a hotel bathroom. In San Francisco a man committed suicide after attacking and critically injuring a housekeeper.

In negotiations Unite Here is not only demanding increases in wages and benefits, but greater protections, including panic buttons. This year the Chicago union won them for workers with a campaign, Hands Off, Pants On.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – 8MAY18 – Hotel workers at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco are protesting low wages that force many workers to work an additional job besides their job at the hotel. Copyright David Bacon

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How Unions Help Immigrants Resist Deportation

by David Bacon, copyright 2018
The American Prospect, February 13, 2018

In San Francisco janitors and other workers support AB 450, a bill to protect workers during immigration raids and enforcement actions.

Labor historian Fred Glass, looking at the impact of immigration on California’s labor movement, notes that many immigrants have arrived in the state with a long history of labor and left-wing activism. Unions have then called on that history and consciousness to aid in organizing drives among janitors, farm workers, hotel housekeepers, and others. “Because the labor movement has understood this fact and designed its efforts around it,” he argues, “California’s unionization rate remains at 16 percent while the national average is 11 percent.” The state has 2.55 million union members, far more than any other.

To union leaders, that’s also one explanation-in addition to the state designating itself as a sanctuary-for the announcement by the Trump administration that it is targeting California for intensive workplace immigration enforcement. “It’s obvious retaliation for California standing up for immigrants,” charges Wei-Ling Huber, president of UNITE HERE Local 2850, the hotel union in the East and North San Francisco Bay Area. “Its purpose is to create a climate of fear among immigrant workers in general, and to attack the unions that have defended them.”

Last fall the state legislature passed a series of bills intended to protect immigrants, especially immigrant workers. One bars police from asking about immigration status and from participating in immigration enforcement actions with federal agents. A second requires warrants before employers can give agents access to workplaces and records of workers’ immigration status.

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FIGHTING FOR BREATH BY A DYING SEA

By David Bacon
Sierra Magazine, January/February 2018


IMPERIAL VALLEY, CA – 18AUGUST17 – At the edge of the Salton Sea, in Salton City, the salts dissolved in the sea’s water leave a dry crust on the soil as the sea dries up and the edge recedes. On the hardpan are dead fish, left behind as the water recedes. Copyright David Bacon

Jacqueline is seven years old. “I feel really bad because I can’t do anything for her,” Maria Pozar says. “Even the doctor says he can’t do anything – that she’s suffering from the dust in the air. Most of the children in North Shore have this problem. He just says not to let them play outside.”

The children of North Shore are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, whose sudden illnesses warn of a greater, life-threatening disaster to come. That disaster is the rapidly receding waters of the Salton Sea. As more and more playa – the sea’s mud shoreline – emerges from the water and dries out, fine particles get swept up by the wind and coat everything in its path, including children’s noses.

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