New technology, housekeeping among concerns in hotel strikes
BOSTON (AP) — Robots delivering room service, check-in kiosks with facial recognition technology and “smart” speakers that serve as an in-room concierge.
The hotel of the not-so-distant future sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s drawing real world anxiety for some of the thousands of Marriott hotel workers on strike across the U.S. this month.
“I’m not against technology,” said Juan Eusebio, a 32-year-old doorman at the W Hotel in Boston and a member of the local union’s negotiating team. “I just want any technology that comes in to help us do a better job, not take our jobs away.”
How much input workers have as these and other technologies are introduced is among the core issues for the nearly 8,000 workers that have walked off their jobs at Marriott hotels from Boston to Honolulu since last week, union officials say.
Workers are also seeking changes to housekeeper workloads, particularly as “green” programs allowing guests to opt out of cleaning services become more popular. They’re also pushing for job protections for restaurant and bar staff as more hotels shutter those facilities.
Marriott, the world’s largest hotel operator, declined to comment for this story, but has said it’s “disappointed” workers have decided to strike.
Marriott workers walked out of hotels across Boston last week, followed by workers in San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, San Jose, Detroit and Honolulu. Some 6,000 workers at 26 hotels in Chicago also went on strike last month, though most have returned to work after reaching new contracts with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and other operators.
Marriott has 5,000 hotels in the U.S. and Canada, of which about 40 are impacted by the current labor union negotiations.
The union’s proposals vary between cities, but generally workers are seeking better compensation to keep up with soaring housing and living costs, said D. Taylor, international president of Unite Here.
Unions agreed to forgo pay raises during the lean recession years to preserve jobs, but now that the industry is reaping record profits in some cities, they want to share in the windfall, he said.