Over 7,700 workers — 2,700 in Hawaii — are on strike at 23 Marriott-operated hotels in eight American cities. Their strike is about issues that are vitally important to us all.
“One Job Should Be Enough” — this core theme of the Marriott strike reflects the aspirations we all share. Working people go to work every day to support our families, to provide a future for our children and grandchildren. This has become harder and harder in recent years as wage increases have fallen behind rising costs, forcing workers to take multiple jobs in order to provide for our families.
The need to hold multiple jobs has had a devastating impact. Hawaii working families often have both parents working at multiple jobs, creating increasing numbers of “latchkey” children who grow up rarely seeing their parents. Multiple jobs mean parents get few or no days off. People can’t count on having weekends with their kids. Arranging for family vacations becomes difficult or impossible. And who’s going to have enough time off work to coach the little league team so our children can go out for sports?
This problem was solved a hundred years ago, but we let the solution slip away.
A hundred years ago, American workers led the way in the international fight for the eight- hour day. Corporate managers were scheduling workers 12, 14, sometimes 16 hours a day. Workers fought for a work day with “eight hours to work, eight hours to sleep, and eight hours to do what we will.” Workers had to conduct bitter strikes and endure severe repression to win things that we have long taken for granted. Things like overtime pay. Things like having the weekend off.
We won that struggle a hundred years ago. Everybody benefitted. Working families moved from slums and company housing to create new, vibrant communities. We changed our society — for the better. But now, our corporate bosses have increasingly abandoned full-time employment, and are increasingly offering only part-time jobs with few or no benefits. Multiple part-time jobs mean that we’ve let our “eight hours to do what we will” slip away.
Marriott strikers are fighting about more than just money. This strike is about everybody’s basic goal in life — a chance to provide for our generations — to raise strong, healthy children, to have time with our grandchildren. A chance to live in healthy communities, to know our neighbors, to be involved with our children’s schools. A chance for our families to participate in sports, art and politics. A chance for a decent, secure and productive life.
Marriott workers are striking to restore the dreams and goals that define our lives. They are fighting for all of us.
Eric Gill is financial secretary-treasurer of the Unite Here Local 5 union.
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus is off today.
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