You picked a fight with this whole city

October 24, 2018

Rebecca Mason and John West report on a solidarity rally for striking Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco, where many workers relate to their struggle to afford the rent.

MORE THAN 1,000 hotel workers and their supporters rallied in San Francisco October 20 as part of a national day of action to support Marriott workers on strike at 23 hotels in seven cities across the country.

The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, marched from picket lines at hotels throughout downtown San Francisco for a rally at Yerba Buena Lane. The rally turned into a short march that toured three of the hotels currently on strike.

There was a breadth of support from other unions in the Bay Area. A member of United Educators of San Francisco, who had authored a successful solidarity motion for her union to pledge weekly support for their hotel workers strike fund, presented the resolution at a California Federation of Teachers (CFT) convention, and over a hundred teachers were moved to carpool to the rally, where they formed the loudest and most visible contingent at the march.

Luukia Smith, president of the CFT’s classified employees division, made the basis of her union’s solidarity clear: “We represent HVAC workers, food service workers, custodians, instructional aides, noon duty aides and a whole bunch of other classifications that are very similar to the work that you all do. We understand your fight.”

Striking hotel workers rally in San Francisco
Striking hotel workers rally in San Francisco (UNITE HERE Local 2 | Facebook)

Teamsters, school bus drivers and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and various construction trade unions also came out in numbers to march with the striking hotel workers and join them in their demand that “One Job Should Be Enough.”

THIS SLOGAN resonates with workers from across the Bay Area, where many are struggling to survive on poverty wages.

In San Francisco, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly $3,400. To afford median rent in many Bay Area cities, workers must earn nearly four times the local minimum wage. As a result, the lowest-income renters spend more than half their earnings on rent alone.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a family of four earning $117,400 in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties is considered “low income,” while $73,300 is “very low income.” In nearby Alameda County, the low-income threshold for a family of four is $89,600.

These figures are the highest in the country and continue to increase every year. In some Bay Area cities, low-income thresholds increased by 10 percent in last year alone.

Hotel workers are fighting for a living wage from the biggest and richest hotel chain in the world.

Marriott is valued at $49.4 billion — roughly twice as much as Hilton — and made $22.9 billion in revenue last year alone. Company profits have increased a whopping 279 percent since 2008. In the same time period, workers annual income increased by only 7 percent.

Working San Franciscans face a crisis of affordability, in a city where the class mandate for employers to pay as little and landlords to charge as much as possible has run wild. San Francisco has become one of the capitals of global wealth on the backs of the hotel workers and teachers who marched down Market Street on Saturday.

They have had enough. Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, warned Marriott: “When you pick a fight with hotel workers in this city, you pick a fight with the whole city. We are going to win this fight the way we win every fight, with the solidarity and resolve of working people.”

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