Union Strikes Over Hotel’s Environmentally-Friendly Program

UNITE-HERE claims to have taken thousands of employees out on strike against Marriott properties mainly because of Marriott’s Go Green program which encourages guests to re-use bath towels and to forego having rooms cleaned daily. While the union stated that after months of negotiations, multiple issues remain, their principal claim in the press release is that “the employer failed to make adequate movement on workplace safety around the so-called green choice program . . .”

UNITE-HERE claims that the main reason for the Go Green program is to reduce the number of housekeepers needed to clean bath towels. The program results in many housekeepers working in essence on-call. Housekeepers may not know until the wee hours of the morning if they will need to report to work. According to the union, the program has resulted in loss of jobs, lower weekly wages for many housekeepers, and an unpredictable schedule.

The union claims that it takes far longer and is much more arduous to clean a room after two or three days than on a daily basis.  The unions argue that employees are more prone to injuries and strains.

While it is a bit startling to see your union and its supporters criticize an environmentally-friendly program, it is not surprising that the union would cloak its demands as safety-driven and not as a desire to maintain jobs, higher employee levels, and thus greater dues revenue.

UNITE-HERE ran an aggressive campaign for years against corporations alleging that housekeepers were required to clean too many rooms per shift, resulting in ergonomic injuries. The union orchestrated the filing of dozens of OSHA complaints throughout the country, supported studies and articles criticizing hotels for causing ergonomic injuries, and in some cases, prompted local ordinances about limiting the number of rooms per day that employers could require housekeepers to clean, or even dictating certain types of more easily fitted sheets. Their efforts appeared to have worked too well, because the union’s about-face argument now is that housekeepers don’t clean enough rooms.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.