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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 42
Hotel strike averted: Westin workers reach tentative agreement with Marriott Corporation
Section One
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Hotel strike averted: Westin workers reach tentative agreement with Marriott Corporation

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

After a marathon bargaining session, workers at the Westin Hotel have reached a tentative labor agreement with the Marriott Corporation, their employer.

According to UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing Westin workers, the final bargaining session lasted 19 hours, starting on Friday, October 12, and lasting till 5:00 a.m. the following day.

Details of the agreement have not been released, pending approval by the union's members. Hotel workers in eight other cities are currently on strike against Marriott-owned properties.

According to their union, Marriott hotel workers want contracts that will allow them to support their families with dignity, to work in safe conditions, and to win basic job security. Although Marriott is the most profitable hotel company in the world, with revenue of almost $23 billion in 2017, hotel employees say they often have to take second jobs just to pay their bills.

UNITE HERE and its allies staged a massive rally and picket at the Westin on October 12 as the new round of bargaining got underway. With their ranks swelled by women building trades workers - in town for the Women Build America conference - their picket line almost entirely surrounded the hotel.

Bargaining had gone on for several months, with union members adopting an aggressive attitude toward an apparently intransigent employer.

On Labor Day, for example, union members and supporters blocked Fifth Avenue in front of the Westin with a sit-down protest, in which 21 people - including union president Erik Van Rossum and State Labor Council officers Jeff Johnson and Lynne Dodson - were arrested.

A whopping 98% of Westin workers voted on September 14 to go on strike if and when negotiations with Marriott broke down. The October 12 bargaining session was widely viewed as the last chance to reach a settlement and avoid a strike.

UNITE HERE also got strike sanction from the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and pledges of support from other unions, many of which turned out members for the October 12 picket line.

In a statement, UNITE HERE acknowledged the 'outpouring of support from the community, with organizations and individuals donating money to a hardship fund, signing up for picket duty alongside workers, and pledging not to do business in Marriott hotels in the event of a strike.'

Local 8 also said that it hopes its agreement in Seattle will encourage Marriott workers on strike against other locations.

'Throughout this campaign, UNITE HERE members across the country have called on Marriott to be a leader in the hotel industry in providing jobs that are enough for hotel workers, and we've demonstrated we're willing do whatever it takes to achieve this goal,' the union said.

'The tentative agreement reached in Seattle shows that Marriott can meet workers' expectations for a fair contract.'

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