In Boston, USA, the 46-day Marriott Hotel workers strike has ended in victory. Organised in UNITE HERE Local 26, the workers ratified a tentative agreement between the union and Marriott International on Saturday 17 November. The full details are not yet public, but the deal appears to include a pay rise for all employees, as well as more guaranteed work hours, parental leave, an increased pension, and improved protections against sexual harassment.
UNITE HERE members at Hynes Convention Center ratified the agreement by an overwhelming margin of 677 to 9. Even if it eventually transpires that there are less favourable aspects to its provisions on, for example, health insurance, the new contract is a substantial gain for the workers. The fact this gain was made via committed industrial action sends a simple, but important, message to the union members and their colleagues: strikes work!
To put this into perspective, before this autumn, Boston had never seen a hotel workers strike. Although the total number of unionised wage and salary workers in the US went up by 262,000 in 2017 to a total of 14.8 million, that still left the overall union membership rate at 10.7 per cent, in sharp contrast to the 20.1 per cent membership rate in 1983. Despite these challenges, in Boston alone, over 1500 Marriott International employees walked out, many of whom are migrants and/or black and minority ethnic (BME). Overall, more than 8000 hotel workers across the country went on strike under the slogan ‘One job should be enough!’.
At its height, the Marriott strike spanned seven time zones. In addition to Boston, Marriott International has settled contracts with employees in San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, and Detroit. Nevertheless, there are still 5000 Marriott workers on strike in San Francisco and two Hawaii locations. Accordingly, I urge comrades to give solidarity to the remaining Marriott Hotel staff on strike. While the fight against precarious employment is long and gruelling, the Marriott strike has shown that unions are still the surest way to win it.