2,500 SF hotel workers walk out in biggest hospitality strike since 2004

The first day of a major hotel strike in San Francisco proved noisy and disruptive. It is the biggest hospitality walkout since 2004, affecting 2,500 workers across seven Marriott properties. 

They include the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the Westin St. Francis and the W Hotel.  

At the Palace Hotel, strikers kept up steady drums and chants as midnight neared; the picket lines are 24 hours and the strike is open-ended. 

"They are a big company," said striker Julio Resendiz, who complains he has to work shifts at three different hotels to make ends meet. 

"One job should be enough for these people, we are fighting and we will be in the streets until we win," said Resendiz. 

The slogan "one job" - on signs and in shouts- refers to the affordability crisis in the Bay Area for service workers, such as hotel housekeepers and kitchen workers, along with those who handle phones and luggage. 

"I think it's important we did this when it matters, but more important, we're frustrated," union leader Anand Singh told KTVU, outside the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square. 

A few years ago,Marriott bought Starwood Hotels, which included Westin and Sheraton, to become the world's biggest hotel chain. 

"The largest and most dominant hotel employer needs to step up in these times and do right by its workers," said Singh, president of Unite here! Local 2. 

Singh says the dispute is about more than money.

"It's about real job security and our members are demanding a real voice at the table as we see new technologies enter this industry." 

Of concern are technologies such as ride sharing apps which bring Uber and Lyft to hotel guests, but cost doormen and bellmen their jobs and tips. 

Food delivery apps, such as Grubhub, bypass room service and hotel restaurants, enabling food delivery from outside.

"We think that's a safety issue," said Singh,"for guests and employees to have someone with no association to the hotel, suddenly wandering guest room floors."  

The horns and drums, already noisy outside the St. Francis, became deafening Thursday evening, when a simultaneous political march wound its way through Union Square, and briefly lent its support to strikers. 

Tourists and conventioneers weren't sure what to make of it all.  

"Being on vacation it's not ideal," said Joelle Barbera of South Carolina, who is attending an Aflac annual meeting, accompanied by her mother. 

"It's hard to hear yourself think in the room, hard to take a nap, hard to sleep," said Barbera, "so it's frustrating."

In a statement, Marriott expressed disappointment at the strike, stating in part, "While we respect our associates' right to participate in this work stoppage,  we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work."

Marriott has brought in temporary workers for the duration of the strike.

"Our hotels are open and we stand ready to provide excellent service," reads the statement. 

But guests say maid-service is by request only, and most rooms are going without.

"I've seen some restaurants and shops in the hotel are closed, " said Nathan Smith, also attending the Aflac convention, and staying at the St. Francis. 

Far from being annoyed by the raucous atmosphere, Smith was enthralled.

"We don't have unions in Georgia, this actually makes the trip more exciting," he enthused.

"I can make my own bed. I feel like I'm getting the real San Francisco experience!" 

No contract talks are scheduled, and this is peak convention season, with several scheduled for the coming weeks, including Oracle's Open World. 

The Palace Hotel had a gala event booked for Thursday night, but the non-profit hosting it cancelled rather than have guests cross a picket line. 

San Francisco is one of three cities where Marriott workers have walked-out, and union employees in a half dozen other major cities have also authorized strikes.