Boston Hotel Workers Just Voted to Authorize a Strike

The move comes after failed contract negotiations with Marriott.

boston hotel workers strike unite here local 26

Photo via Unite Here Local 26

After months of failed contract negotiations with the massive hotel company, hundreds Boston hotel workers at eight Marriott-owned properties have voted to authorize a strike.

The vote clears the way for a strike that could involve 1,800 employees, represented by Unite Here Local 26, who staff the W, Westin Copley, Westin Boston Waterfront, Renaissance, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton Boston, Aloft, and Element hotels.

“Marriott is the largest and most profitable hotel company in the world, and the dominant player in the hotel market,” Unite Here Local 26 President Brian Lang said as votes were counted Wednesday evening. “We fully expected that they would be prepared to acknowledge that this has been the five most profitable years in history for Boston hotels and that they would be willing to reward to the folks whose labor has contributed to making it so. Quite the contrary. They are throwing pennies at our members right now.”

Of those who voted Wednesday, 95 percent were in favor of authorizing a strike. It was not immediately clear when, exactly, a strike might begin. Lang stressed that there was still time to negotiate before such a date is selected, and said his hope was to avoid a repeat of the historic strike of dining workers at Harvard in 2016, which dragged on for nearly a month. Workers at Northeastern called off a planned strike in October after reaching an agreement with Chartwells, the company the school contracts out for dining services. “It could happen any time in the next few weeks,” Lang said. “Whether or not that happens is totally dependent on Marriott.”

In a statement earlier Wednesday, Marriott International expressed confidence the two sides could come to an agreement. It said its hotels would stay open and “work to minimize any disruption” if workers do decide to walk off the job.

We have been in negotiations with Unite Here Local 26 since April. Since then, we’ve had over a dozen meetings where we have been able to reach tentative agreements on some substantive issues. There are still significant issues for both parties on the table that need to be resolved. We continue to negotiate in good faith. Throughout our longstanding relationship with Local 26, 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. 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.

The vote comes amid a period in Boston that has seen formidable demand for rooms met with the rapid construction of hotels, complete with increasingly luxurious amenities and some of the city’s best restaurants. It’s a phenomenon this magazine dubbed “The Great Boston Hotel Boom” earlier this year. Workers represented by the union say they feel like they’re not getting a big enough piece of that pie, and have asked for better pay, as well as improved working conditions, sexual harassment protections, and a plan for reducing job loss due to technology. They have rallied around the slogan “one job should be enough,” a reference to the fact that many of the union’s members work two or more jobs to get by. In June, they held a rally outside several Boston hotels, the biggest coordinated action of its kind in more than a decade.

“At a time when the industry is thriving, it’s growing, and where Boston has become one of the most expensive cities to live in, our members are quite frankly outraged, and they feel like they’re being slapped in the face,” Lang said.

An earlier version of this article inaccurately described the number of workers who voted to authorize a strike. A strike could involve 1,800 Marriott hotel employees.