Nearly 2,500 workers walked off their jobs last month from seven Marriott hotels in downtown San Francisco to call for higher wages, workplace safety and job security.
Since then, protests have grown more intense as workers demand better wages in one of the most costly cities in the United States.
Blavity’s annual tech conference “AfroTech,” which kicks off on Thursday in San Francisco, made a powerful announcement just days before attendees arrived to the Bay area — they were standing with the workers.
Quite frankly — the rent is just too damn high, and workers are not being paid enough to afford it.
In a statement posted on Blavity’s website, the millennial tech company informed its attendees of the change, “Blavity, Inc. decided last year to host part of this year’s AfroTech conference at the Palace Hotel, which is owned and operated by Marriott. We did not anticipate such strikes — and with no resolution yet reached, we simply cannot support a company that does not respect its most vulnerable workers.”
What does this mean for Marriott’s presence at AfroTech? Well, firstly, all of the events originally scheduled at the Palace Hotel were relocated to other locations. Also, attendees have also followed suit, by canceling accommodations at Marriott locations around the city.
Needless to say, this is a major L for Marriott at a time when thousands of Black entrepreneurs, tech companies and conference goers will embark on the city.
According to SF Gate, the dispute came after a contentious contract negotiation between 2,300 hotel workers and Marriott, the city’s biggest hotel employer with seven San Francisco hotels. The contract negotiations will impact 8,000 hotel workers in total at more than 50 San Francisco hotels.
Blavity Founder Morgan Debaun continued in the statement, “As a community, we can not build with businesses that do not have people’s best interests at heart. And, as a business, we can not support companies that can’t fairly compensate their employees, many of whom are people of color.”
The following letter was also released to Marriott executives:
Dear Marriott Executives and Marriott CEO Arne M. Sorenson,
For the past four weeks, strikers have demonstrated outside of Marriott hotels in San Francisco on behalf of the union demanding better wages of your employees. An agreement has yet to be reached in San Francisco, signaling to us at Blavity Inc. a lack of concern and absence of speedy executive action to compensate your employees fairly. We strongly support the UNITE HERE members who are on strike and urge you to move expeditiously toward a resolution with your employees.
As a result, I have decided to officially withdraw AfroTech’s presence at the Marriott Palace Hotel from Nov. 8 – 11, 2018. We no longer choose to support your business, invite our guests to be entertained at your venue, or stay in your hotel. At this time, we will identify another venue to house our guests and experiences.
The conference is just days away, and this decision will cost my small business hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have made this decision because I am deeply troubled with the lack of action on Marriott’s behalf to better understand and respect the basic demands presented by their core staff. Many of those protesting or affected by the protest are Black and Brown people who, despite their grueling and labor-intensive duties, are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Your workers could very well be my employees’ own mothers, cousins, uncles, and brothers.
Further, as the CEO of a company that works daily to represent community for Black and Brown people, it goes against our core values to cross the picket line. The conversations, gatherings, and stories that were scheduled to happen at your hotel were designed to bring people together, to showcase the power that is created with the collective sharing of our intellectual and social capital.
To walk through a picket line would be hypocritical and insincere. These people are not just fighting for a fair livable contract for themselves, they’re fighting for all of us.
We support those demanding fair pay and choose to no longer conduct business with Marriott’s Palace Hotel in SF until all issues around workers’ compensation are resolved and agreed to by the Union.
CEO, Blavity, Inc.