Marriott Hotel Workers Walk Out in Boston’s First Hotel Strike

An estimated 1,500 Marriott Hotel workers walked out Wednesday morning in the first hotel strike in Boston history to demand a living wage.

Housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, doormen and other employees left seven different hotels across the city as they call for increased wages and a salary that allows them to be able to live in Boston.

"Marriott is a multi-billion dollar corporation and our wages haven't kept up with the rising costs," Toula Savvidis, a Sheraton Hotel bartender, said. "I've put my time in through the years working for this company. I should be at a place where I feel comfortable enough to retire."

Courtney Leonard is another worker who is demanding fair wages and healthcare.

"I'm from South Boston. I was born and raised here. Now I live in New Bedford so I drive over 100 miles a day just to get to work because I can't afford to live anywhere near here," Leonard said.

Leonard said she doesn't want to inconvenience guests nor give up her paycheck but says some things are worth the sacrifice.

"The money is there, especially in Boston, corporations are moving and we are being left behind as workers and we need to stand together," said Leonard.

Workers at the Marriott Hotel, which is the city’s largest hotel employer, say that one job should be enough.

"I want people to know the job is not easy," Mei Leung, a housekeeper at Sheraton Boston, said. "I want them to know we need a good contract."

The union that represents the protesting hospitality workers, Unite Here Local 26, urges the public not to cross the picket line. The strike comes after the hotel and workers failed to agree on wages after months of negotiations.

"Hotel industry is an industry that is thriving here," Unite Here Local 26 President Brian Lang said. "It's thriving primarily because of the great work that the members of Local 26 do and we’re simply saying one job should be enough. Let us share a wealth we create for these companies."

Now, the hotel chain faces other walkouts in Honolulu, Detroit, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Oakland and San Jose.

Marriott International expressed in a statement its disappointment in Unite Here's strike.

"Marriott's current economic proposal matches the economic terms in the parties' last contract, which included the largest increases in the parties' bargaining history," the hotel giant said. "We have not proposed any changes to our associates' health, welfare or retirement benefits. During the strike our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests. While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work."

While workers say they are taking the strike one day at a time, guests so far, said they have not been inconvenienced.

"It's a little strange but the hotel has been wonderful and accommodating us with everything we need. And they are giving us extra points for services they are not going to be able to provide," said Chris Brown who was staying at the Sheraton in Boston. "It's a little strange, a little loud but it's alright.

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