The Westin Seattle workers represented by Unite Here Local 8 gather at Gethsemane Lutheran Church after voting to strike on Sep. 14. Photo by Abby Lawlor

The Westin Seattle workers represented by Unite Here Local 8 gather at Gethsemane Lutheran Church after voting to strike on Sep. 14. Photo by Abby Lawlor

Hotel Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

The Westin Seattle employees will picket to demand higher wages from Marriott International.

The Westin Seattle workers joined hotel employees in five other cities throughout the nation by voting Sept. 14 to authorize a strike against Marriott International. If a contract is not reached with the hospitality company, the strike would be the first one at The Westin Hotel in over 30 years.

Members of Unite Here Local 8— a union that represents hospitality workers in Washington and Oregon— are demanding higher wages, greater job stability and safer work conditions after their contract expired in late May. Many of the employees say that they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and that their work schedule is often unpredictable.

Mohammed Faik, a 41-year-old line cook at The Westin Seattle, says that he also has to drive Uber to pay for the mortgage on his Northgate home. “We need to get the company to treat us right, and we need a raise,” Faik says. Although he’s cooked at the hotel for nearly two decades, Faik says that his wages have not kept pace with the city’s rising cost of living. His elongated work hours have limited the time that he spends with his children to the brief moments when he picks them up from school. Faik customarily begins work at 4 a.m., then drives Uber for several hours before returning home in the evening. “The kids are growing up very fast, and I’m not spending time with them,” Faik says. “It’s not right for them and for me.”

Another cook at the hotel, Ayshad Hajiyeva, says that her $17.50 hourly wages makes it difficult to afford rent payments. She’ll need to find a second job if her wages don’t increase, she says. “I work very hard, and after work I’m getting very tired; I’m like dead. And I cannot have another job,” the 59-year-old adds. “This is why one job should be enough; this is our slogan.” Hajiyeva would like increased wages to afford a car and to send remittances back to her sister in the Georgia Republic, where she is seeking cancer treatment.

Furthermore, her husband also works at the hotel as a dishwasher, but his schedule is often unpredictable. The couple mostly has to rely on her income when her husband’s work shifts are cut down to two days a week.

Unite Here Local 8 organizer Abby Lawlor says that workers are also seeking expanded eligibility for healthcare and for greater job security as the increased use of automation phases out jobs. For instance, automatic check-ins at hotels have become more commonplace throughout the nation. “If folks get a raise it doesn’t actually matter at the end of the day if the department is eliminated,” Lawlor explains.

The 2016 passage of Initiative 124 — a union-backed measure designed to protect hotel workers from sexual harassment and workplace hazards — has improved conditions at hotels by equipping workers with panic buttons, limiting housekeeper workloads, and improving access to health care, among other provisions. Yet Lawlor says that other practices at the hotel are creating unsafe work environments for housekeepers.

She notes that financial incentive programs for guests such as Make a Green Choice, which allows guests to decline full housekeeping services for up to three days, increases the workload for housekeepers. The workers are not given additional time to prepare the room for the next guest, which creates more physical strain on the workers, Lawlor says. “Their hours are cut, their schedule becomes less predictable and they may not qualify for health insurance or bring home the money they need to pay for rent or to support themselves,” Lawlor adds.

Marriott International remains confident that the hospitality company and the union will agree on a contract before employees form a picket line. “Through many years of working with Unite Here, we have always taken the negotiation process seriously and reached agreements. We have no reason to believe that this negotiation process will be any different,” a Marriott spokesperson wrote in a statement emailed to Seattle Weekly. “We respect the right of our associates to voice their opinions on issues that are important to them. Should the union and our employees choose to strike, our hotels will continue to operate and work to minimize any disruption and to provide the excellent service that our guest have come to expect.”

The decision to authorize a strike follows the arrest of 21 hotel workers who demanded better wages by demonstrating outside The Westin Seattle on Sep. 3. The Marriott workers joined the ranks of more than 100 people arrested at similar protests held throughout the country that day.

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com

Sep. 18 Update: This story has been amended to include a statement from Marriott.

More in News & Comment

King County’s current climate action plan was adopted in 2015 and has provided a blueprint for reducing emissions and preparing for climate change. File photo
King County approves environmental justice provision

An update to the King County climate action plan should include an… Continue reading

Homelessness authority approved by King County, awaits Seattle vote

The agreement would consolidate emergency services for people experiencing homelessness.

The King County Courthouse is located at 516 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Council approves $600,000 to increase security at King County Courthouse

The funding will be split evenly between increasing deputies, security and social services.

Victims, law enforcement speak about King County Courthouse conditions

An entrance to the courthouse was closed after an assault.

In this September 2019 photo, George Kirkish, owner and founder of Palouse Winery on Vashon-Maury Island, pours a glass of wine for Lori Coots during tasting room hours. (Kevin Opsahl/Sound Publishing)
King County Council approves controversial winery, brewery ordinance

After five years, the county has updated regulations surrounding alcohol production and tasting.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

Most Read