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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Westin workers protest downtown

posted by on October 24 at 19:31 PM

At the downtown Westin this rainy afternoon, hotel workers and a handful of unions staged the second in what is looking to become a series of protests of the Westin’s employment practices. The first protest, back in June, drew hundreds of people (including Mayor Nickels) and featured that giant top-hatted capitalist “fat cat” balloon that made the rounds at a couple protests this summer. Today’s protest was smaller, but still managed to shut down the block of 5th outside the Westin as fifty or so people waved Chiller font signs and another twenty held a “Hotel Workers Rising!” banner across the street while they waited for their planned arrests to occur.

chiller protest.JPG

After an hour of chanting through the primer of protest tunes (“Ain’t no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don’t stop!” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” “The people! United! Will never be defeated!” “Hey! Ho! Corporate greed has got to go!” ) the police went down the line and handcuffed everyone who signed up for the civil disobedience, everyone else shouted support and the whole rally ended with a rousing chorus of “We will be back!” This last part confused me, since I thought the whole point of the protest was to put pressure of the Westin — if it works, they won’t be back. I guess they’re not optimistic.

unite here arrests.JPG


The Westin workers’ union is currently renegotiating its contract with the hotel and seriously miffed that the hotel management has offered only 10 cent raises, while increasing the weight of mattresses and the number of linens the maids are required to heft.

The arresting officer in a ski mask and shorts wins the SPD fashion award of the year, by the way.

hot cop.JPG

RSS icon Comments


Having worked in a couple of the downtown hotels, I certainly sympathize. They work hard for a public who is best indifferent, or hostile if things aren't 125% perfect in every detail.

I didn't clean rooms, but heard many stories of the various "material" some people left. There are a lot of sick, sick people out there and they've probably slept in your next hotel room.

Posted by kb | October 24, 2006 8:31 PM

The last word we reseived was that due to prison overpopulation, the protesters were sequestered into a world beat record store (partially seen in pic #3). Most of the protesters saw this as an absurd, moral victory with the rallying perk of overheard free-jazz. However, after approximately 30 minutes, the hypnotic rhythms, amidst the bleak weather, matching outfits and some lewd winking by 'fashion cop', unrest began to erupt. No further details at this point (Any updates sloggers?). We here at Team Mom & Pop are readying dozens of PB&Js to bring down in support of our Down With The Westin hungry heroes.

Posted by Team M&P | October 24, 2006 8:43 PM

I was in San Francisco in late September of '04, when there was a near-city wide protest by hotel workers. At the beginning of my trip it was small - a couple hotels. By the end, everyone was on the street in protest. Thank god my hotel wasn't on strike. But still - the din, the anger.

I fucking love collective barganing. I love it when it works, and I love watching it take the long way home.

Posted by erostratus | October 24, 2006 8:45 PM

Maybe next time give more than a single sentence to explain what the protest is about?

Posted by wf | October 24, 2006 10:00 PM

Uh, yes, I would like to check in for the civil disobedience?

I'm sorry, we don't have a reservation for a civil disobedience in your name.

But I made this reservation LAST WEEK... look, read this sign, it has my confirmation number on it.

I'm really very sorry--may I interest you in a harangue instead?

Posted by Charles | October 24, 2006 11:56 PM

The Westin is the only major downtown hotel that is unionized, and it is also hands down the worst hotel to work at, but I don't blame that on the union. Their management is both mean and clueless, and they use the union as a scapegoat for everything they do wrong.

Their stinginess with wages fits in perfectly with their "operating philosophy": run it cheap, and gouge the customer and employees alike.

The Westin has gone from being a classy hotel with an award-winning restaurant, a swinging cocktail lounge, and a Trader Vics, to being an over-priced, dirty, worn-out hotel that is charging Four Season's rate for Holiday Inn quality. With all the money their saving by cutting corners, you'd think they could share some of it with the employees.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | October 25, 2006 7:09 AM

Nickels being a part of ANY protest that calls someone a 'fat cat' is very funny to me.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 7:33 AM

Gee, that's 10 cents an hour more than we got at The Seattle Times. Thanks, Frank.

Posted by DOUG. | October 25, 2006 10:29 AM

Kudos to the cops for handling the incident well. Those who were protesting were left alone; those who were blocking traffic were politely arrested.

Walking by, one has the obvious question: if working at the Westin sucks so bad, why not work elsewhere? Seattle has no shortage of hotels. Craigslist Seattle shows 449 job matches for "hotel" -- everything from housekeeping to line cook to chief engineer.

Posted by Troy | October 25, 2006 10:31 AM

Troy, most hotel jobs are low paying and offer dubious benefits. The Westin has good benefits (thanks to the union) and OK wages - again, thanks mostly to the Union.

Other major hotels pay a few cents more, but you may not have the job security or as good of a benefit package. Some are exceptional to their employees without having union representation, but they are few and getting fewer.

But the bigger question is this: What is wrong with people wanting a better work environment? Why should they have to leave the place where they have gotten seniority and have a pension plan? What's that matter with asking for a bigger piece of the pie?

Don't be such a sheep. There's nothing wrong with standing up to your employer.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | October 25, 2006 10:45 AM

One of the things that's obvious about the Westin (speaking as a hotel guest) is that they don't hire enough staff to properly manage the workload. That points squarely at poor management. The rooms are appallingly dirty for a hotel in that price range, it takes FOREVER to get any kind of room service or maid service, and the housekeepers are obviously being required to service far too many rooms in too short a time.

I was really shocked at how dirty they are. The housekeepers do a good job with the obvious stuff; changing linens and a quick once-over with the vacuum - but there was garbage under everything, the bathtub was still filthy, and anything that wasn't in plain sight hadn't been cleaned or maintained. I absolutely do not blame the housekeepers for that; that tells me they have too small a staff. That's crappy management.

I won't stay there again, myself.

Posted by Geni | October 25, 2006 12:37 PM

Oh, and I should add, that having had friends and close family work in hotels - I think that's one of the crappiest jobs in existence and anything you can do to make their job easier, you should. I always try to leave the room at least tidy - trash in the trash containers, what a concept, dirty linens piled up, the bedding ready to be stripped and changed - and I always leave a tip when I check out. According to the housekeepers I've known, it's a rare hotel guest that even flushes the toilet. Apparently, used condoms in the bedsheets (SURPRISE!) and gigantic turds left in the toilet are so common they don't even flinch at them anymore.

When you next stay in a hotel, pay attention to the sounds of the housekeepers going into the rooms. The first thing they have to do in nearly every room is (try to) flush the toilet. People are fucking pigs.

Posted by Geni | October 25, 2006 12:41 PM

I personally stay at cheap chain motels like Motel 6, because I find the marginal utility of paying for a more "upscale" hotel room isn't really all that much.

And re: geni's last point... I do also try to leave the room as clean as I can :)

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 2:55 PM

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