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Activists rally for Marriott Tacoma Downtown workers

About 250 union members and labor activists rally at noon Tuesday at Tollefson Plaza to seek better wages, benefits and conditions for the workers at the Courtyard by Marriott Tacoma Downtown hotel. The rally followed unsuccessful attempts by Unite Here Local 8 to organize the hotel's workers.
About 250 union members and labor activists rally at noon Tuesday at Tollefson Plaza to seek better wages, benefits and conditions for the workers at the Courtyard by Marriott Tacoma Downtown hotel. The rally followed unsuccessful attempts by Unite Here Local 8 to organize the hotel's workers. The Olympian

A campaign to force the owners of the Courtyard by Marriott Tacoma Downtown hotel to raise wages and enhance working conditions entered a new phase Tuesday with a rally on Tollefson Plaza, next to the hotel.

The rally, attended by some 250 labor union activists and community members, was held in conjunction with the convention of the Washington State Labor Council at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. Many of the delegates joined the assembled throng for speeches at the plaza.

The union that was a major force behind Tuesday’s rally, Unite Here Local 8, hasn’t been successful in organizing the hotel’s workers. The union has allied itself with a labor-based protest group, Jobs with Justice, and some local church groups.

At the Marriott, union and Tacoma residents sympathetic to the workers’ cause presented Marriott managers with what they called a “Tacoma Hotel Workers’ Bill of Rights” and asked them to sign it. The hotel said it would study the document, but made no commitments to sign.

The document calls for things a union contract would demand. It asks the hotel to provide family medical insurance for all workers employed more than 80 hours a month for less than $50 a month. It asks the hotel to drop the quota of rooms housekeepers clean during an eight-hour shift to 15 from 18 rooms per day.

It requires disputes to be settled by arbitration, and it commits the hotel to annual raises for workers.

Marriott general manager Mike Gommi was unavailable for comment.

Unite Here Local 8 secretary-treasurer Erik Van Rossum claimed that hotel wages are so low that some workers qualify for state-paid health insurance and food assistance.

“We don’t think the profits from this hotel should be shipped out of town,” he said.

In another phase of the campaign, Unite Here has allied itself with the owners of the nearby Hotel Murano, the only unionized hotel in Tacoma, to oppose the Marriott owner’s plans to build two hotels on the nearby Thea Foss Waterway.

Hollander Investments, the Bellingham-based company that owns the Courtyard by Marriott Tacoma Downtown, has proposed building two hotels linked by an office building on an open site south of the Esplanade condominiums on the waterway’s west side.

The Murano owner and the union raised issues about the hotels’ design and with Hollander labor policies with the Tacoma City Council last fall. The council tabled approval of an environmental indemnity agreement for the hotel for six months last year over those issues.

That agreement finally passed the council earlier this year, but the Murano has delayed a construction start for the first of the hotels by twice appealing the hotels’ shoreline permits.

The Murano recently lost its request for reconsideration of those permits. It now must decide whether to appeal those permits to Superior Court.

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