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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 7, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 36
21 arrested at Westin Hotel - Hotel workers demand better wages, job security
Section One
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21 arrested at Westin Hotel - Hotel workers demand better wages, job security

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Labor Day lived up to its name this year, as hundreds of Westin Hotel workers and supporters rallied outside the hotel, with some blocking Fifth Avenue till they were arrested by police.

The Labor Day protest was the latest in a long series of local and national escalations between hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE and the Marriott corporation, which now owns the Westin.

Besides the demonstration in Seattle, thousands of Marriott workers mobilized in San Francisco, Boston, Honolulu, Detroit, San Jose, and San Diego, with over one hundred people arrested in the protests nationally.

Marriott's union contracts have expired in many cities across the country without the company being able to reach an agreement with workers in the ongoing negotiations. Although Marriott is the most profitable hotel company in the world, with revenue of almost $23 billion in 2017, its hotel employees say they often have to take second jobs just to pay their bills.

According to their union, UNITE HERE, Marriott hotel workers are fighting for contracts that will allow them to support their families with dignity, to work in safe conditions, and to win basic job security.

'Marriott is the largest and richest hotel company in the world,' said UNITE HERE Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum, who was arrested in the civil disobedience action.

'Their success is the result of the hard work of thousands of UNITE HERE members across the country. Today, we said 'Enough!' to jobs that produce billions in revenues for Marriott but don't provide workers the ability to support themselves and their families.'

UNITE HERE Local 8 represents hotel and restaurant workers in Washington and Oregon, including 400 workers at the Westin.

'I have worked at the Westin Seattle as a housekeeper for four years, and I still don't have a regular schedule or hours' said Local 8 member Anelita Vergara.

'Because of Marriott programs like 'Make a Green Choice' [which asks guests to opt out of daily room cleaning], there are fewer hours for housekeepers, and I never know if I will be able to work enough to support my family. We're going to keep fighting until one job is enough for Marriott workers.'

Among those arrested were the Washington State Labor Council's President, Jeff Johnson, and Secretary-Treasurer, Lynne Dodson.

'Housekeepers are paid far too little, sexually harassed on a regular basis, and asked to work at a pace where they suffer frequent injuries on the job, and yet the Marriott Westin in Seattle has not shown them the dignity that they deserve or the wherewithal to support their families with one job,' Johnson told the SGN.

'This is a disgrace and must change. It was an honor to support these proud workers by doing civil disobedience on Labor Day. The Marriott and the City of Seattle chose to turn peaceful civil disobedience into an arrest for 21 people. And the truth is, if it would help these workers, then we would continue to do civil disobedience tomorrow, the day after, and the day after.'

'The Marriott makes billions in revenue, and fails to invest in the ones who do the work to make them successful,' Dodson added. 'One job should be enough to make a living, and the Marriott workers deserve their fair share of the wealth they create!'

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