Westin Book Cadillac strikers enter second day of picketing

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

As workers picketed the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit for the second day Monday, it was unclear what impact they were having on business.

The Brooklyn Nets, playing the Pistons on Monday night, crossed the picket line Monday morning, much to the chagrin of union members.

The downtown hotel had been slated to house CityLab 2018 from Oct. 28-30. Organized by the think tank the Aspen Institute, The Atlantic magazine and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the gathering was described on its website as "the preeminent global cities summit organized ... to address the most urgent urban issues of our time."

But the union, Unite Here Local 24, said they've been successful in turning several guests and deliverers away from the downtown hotel.

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"We offered them (guests) other options of union-worker hotels in Detroit," said the union president, Nia Winston .

The hotel chain could not be reached for immediate comment. Instead it released a statement.

"We are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike at this time. During the strike our hotel is open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests," read the statement.

"We continue to bargain in good faith for a fair contract. While we respect our associates' rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work."

Guests who were staying at the hotel were apologetic to the union but said they didn't learn about the strike until arriving at the hotel and it was too late to change their plans.

"I would have made other plans," said one guest, Dee Browne of Bedford, Ohio.

Browne said the job action didn't seem to have any effect on her stay at the hotel, which was going to last just a day.

The jobs of the striking workers are being done by management brought in from outside the area.

While the strike is ongoing, workers at two other Marriotts in Metro Detroit haven't joined the job action.

Union workers at the Renaissance Center Marriott are under contract through next year, and workers at the Detroit Airport Marriott will soon be holding their own strike vote, said Watson.

The Book Cadillac workers said they are striking because of low and stagnant wages compared to workers at other area hotels. Winston said workers at the Renaissance Center Marriott several blocks away make an average of $2 more per hour.

The strike, which was authorized in September, began Sunday at 5 a.m. Local 24 represents about 160 workers at the hotel that includes bartenders, servers, cashiers, bellmen, front desk workers and housekeepers.

Besides the Detroit hotel, 5,000 hotel workers are striking at Marriott properties in four other cities — San Francisco, Boston, San Jose and Oakland.

Other Book Cadillac workers echoed Winston's concerns.

If there were no strike starting at 5 a.m., Yolanda Murray, 43, would have started her shift at 6 a.m., "making sure everybody has clean and sanitized dishes." 

"The proposal they gave us was little, very little," said Murray.

She said that in her eight years working at the hotel, her wages have only increased by $2.50 an hour. 

Union officials said the timeline on the Marriott proposal for wage increases would have taken years to bring Book Cadillac workers in line with other local hotels.