Over the past two months, hotel workers in our nation’s major metropolitan areas have walked out of Marriott hotels in a nationwide strike. As of October 8, nearly 8,000 members of the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE were on the picket lines in Boston, Detroit, Honolulu, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area. What do they want? Well, it’s simple really. They are tired of working multiple jobs to earn enough to support their families. Their placards say it all: One Job Should Be Enough.
There was a time in this country when a man or woman who was willing to work hard and put in a forty-hour week would earn enough to live, modestly but comfortably. At the end of the day you’d be tired, but whether you were a high school graduate or a college graduate, you’d be able to go home after your shift and spend time with your children – not report to a second job or a “side hustle” with Uber while your children were left unattended and unsupervised.
The most recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that the median hourly wage for hotel and motel desk clerks and housekeepers is $10.99 per hour, or about $22,000 per year, if you are fortunate enough to find full-time, year-round employment. That’s less than $2,000 per month. In many US cities you can hardly find an apartment for that, let alone cover food, utilities, child care or health insurance.
Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is not unique. If you don’t have a special skill in high demand to give you a leg up – that is, if you are trying to make a living on your hard work alone – the American labor market today can be a cold place. More than one quarter of American workers earn less than $12 per hour, a $24,000 annual salary for 40 hours per week. Could you live on that?
Low wages are only one reason why workers in our nation’s hotels often have to take a second job. Some face chronic insecurity as on-call employees in banquet services; others lose their health insurance during the cold winter months due to seasonal layoffs.
Banding together in a union and acting collectively can give workers a fighting chance at making sure one job is enough. Thanks to last year’s massive corporate tax cut, the already profitable hotel chain landed a reported $200 million windfall. Marriott’s housekeepers, bell staff and desk clerks are asking, what about us? This largely immigrant workforce, often toiling at one or more side jobs to make ends meet, has stood up and spoken out: One Job Should Be Enough.
Show your solidarity with these workers. Visit the strikers’ website and sign the pledge that you will not patronize Marriott until the workers win a fair contract. And pray always, for justice for hotel workers and for workers everywhere.