“No Contract – No Peace!” “Uno, dos, tres, quatro… Que queremos? Un contrado!” Picketers and strikers took to the streets chanting and banging objects outside the Marriott Marquis on Mission and 3rd Street on Saturday, as part of a nationwide strike of 7,700 Marriott workers.
More than 2,500 San Francisco Marriott workers went on strike in the Bay Area on Oct. 14 to protest unsuitable working conditions and stalled contract negotiations.
Marriott Marquis management on the scene declined to comment. In an email, Marriott stated that the hotels remain open.
“While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work,” it read.
The contract negotiations began before the previous contract expired on Aug. 15.
“They were sitting at the table but not bargaining in good faith, simply just dismissive and not showing any kind of movement at all,” said Lisa Correa, a banquet server at the Marriott Marquis for the past 26 years.
Workers are demanding a livable full time wage, an end to unsafe working conditions, and credible job security.
“Our campaign slogan is ‘One job should be enough,’” Correa said. “We should not have to come and get two or three jobs in order to be able to support ourselves and our families.
“It was heart-wrenching sometimes because I wanted to be a parent that could be there for my kids and spend more time with them and it really did take a toll on my kids when they were in their most vulnerable teenage years.”
Correa said she prepared for the strike by saving some of her income since last year.
“We’re really in this for the long haul,” she said.
Correa opposes Marriott’s three-hours shifts, because they create an impossible situation for workers like her who commute 39 miles to get to work.
The hourly wage is entirely consumed by the costs of the commute, she said.
“We’re not going anywhere. We are prepared, we are energized, and we understand,” said Correa.
“Our membership knows how important this is not only to workers here in San Francisco but across the nation.”
Several protesters and a union president were arrested on Oct. 12 for taking the protests in to the street.
Among those arrested was Andres Cortez, who has worked at the Marriott Marquis for 29 years in the housekeeping department, maintaining rooms.
Cortez is striking with Local 2, the hotel and restaurant workers union of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Their members are housekeepers, dishwashers, servers, and bartenders. They organized to raise the standards for workers in the Bay Area and fight for a livable income, health care, retirement funds, and a voice on the job.
Cortez said the prospect of being arrested again won’t stop him.
“I’m not scared, I have no reason to be scared, we’re fighting for our benefits, we don’t do anything else. We’re here in peace, not to hurt anybody,” Cortez said. “We just want the corporation to give us what we want.”
Fellow unions supported the cause by dropping off food and joining strikers on the 24-hour picket line.
Onlookers crowded around the hoard of strikers, recording the scene with their phones as guests walked out of the hotel heads down, effectively shaming the patrons.
Many workers fear being laid off due to automation and technological advances. They believe automation should improve jobs not eliminate them.
Oakland resident Carmen Rugama, who works in housekeeping at the Marriott Marquis, said being on strike has affected her financially. She has had to dip into the money she’s been saving to send her 18-month-old daughter to college one day.
“I feel betrayed,” Rugama said. “Right now, I’m just thinking of her future and if I can’t get the money for [her college] she’s gonna be like me, we’re gonna end up on the street.”
Morale is high for now, but the strike is taking its physical toll.
“I’m tired! My feet are really sore from walking and chanting, I started losing my voice like on the fourth day,” Rugama said.
Being there for each other is what keeps the strikers going, she said.
“I feel like if any of us give up then the rest of us will follow. We’re already out here, and if we start something then we have to finish it.”