By Jacob Bourne
The San Francisco Labor Council, with help from the San Mateo Labor Council and union affiliates, recently organized a food pantry at Yerba Buena Gardens for 2,300 striking hotel workers. Marriott workers with Unite Here Local 2 have been striking for 44 days, demanding affordable healthcare, livable wages, breaks and safer conditions. Volunteers helped with the picket line outside of the Marriott Marquis, while others like Gordon Mar, District 4 Supervisor-elect, handed out food.
“Symbolically, this is important because it shows that the entire movement is supportive; and practically, it’s important because these workers can see and feel the solidarity through food and other goods that we can provide,” said Rudy Gonzalez, SFLC executive director, who drove the pantry’s delivery truck. “What’s good about a fight is that it unites the workers, but what’s also great about these high-profile fights is that it unites the movement as a whole.”
Jessica Etheridge, who’s waitressed at the Marriott for 15 years, said she decided to strike for the first time because she “was just shocked that in the face all the Marriott’s incredible profits that they’d basically want to demote us.” She explained that the hotel had been trying to cut hours for servers by converting six hour shifts to three hours and that she worries about losing healthcare benefits as a result.
Workers like housekeeper Tomas Umanzor said that despite the unhealthy air quality, colder weather and financial hardships, Local 2 members feel even more united and will keep pressing forward until the end. Marriott worker, Edwin Escobar, is hopeful about a positive resolution saying, “We have strong representation in the negotiations.”
“The food pantry helps these workers understand that they’re not alone,” said John Ulrich, retired UFCW member. “It’s important to get retirees involved because it’s just a matter of time before it affects our benefits and pensions. If they can do this to one union, they can do it to all unions.”