Almost 60 workers at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel began a strike Sunday, seeking better wages and working conditions.
“Our bodies is deteriorating for working so hard,” said Evelyn Rivera, 43, a housekeeper at the hotel in Old City.
Members of Unite Here Local 274 working as housekeepers, cooks, laundry attendants and lobby staff began the strike with a picket outside the hotel at Fourth and Arch Streets at 4:30 a.m., members said, and by midafternoon more than two dozen marched and chanted on the sidewalk. They carried signs saying “Black Lives Matter! Black Work Matters!” A majority of the workers are Black, brown, or immigrants, the union said.
“While we respect the right of employees to strike, we’re disappointed that Unite Here has chosen this path,” a statement from Wyndham Hotel and Resorts said. “The hotel is open and operating, and we have taken measures to help ensure guests are not impacted.”
A spokesperson declined to say how many total workers the hotel has, or how many guests it serves annually.
Members of Unite Here said they were prepared to remain on strike until a new contract agreement can be reached. It would replace one that expired Sept. 30, 2019, a spokesperson said.
The hotel strike comes amid a period of unrest nationally for workers seeking better pay and employment conditions. In an October story, the Washington Post reported workers went on strike against 178 employers this year. The significant number of people who have left jobs, along with disruptions in the supply chain, the Post article reported, have given workers new leverage to ask for better wages and working conditions from employers.
Drivers for delivery service Gopuff, including some in Philadelphia, have planned a 24-hour strike for Tuesday.
At issue at the Wyndham, workers said, is pay that doesn’t keep pace with other hotels in the city, and onerous workloads.
“We have been for two years trying to get a fair living wage in our contract,” said Monica Burks, 60.
Union members said a standard rate for hotel housekeeping work is $18 an hour, but the Wyndham pays less than that.
Rivera, the housekeeper, said she makes $15 an hour after working at the hotel for more than two years. “I’m taking care of three kids and a grandbaby on that, and it isn’t enough,” she said.
Cleaning 14 rooms a shift, and as many as 16 on busy days, is overwhelming.
“When I go home, my feet are swollen, my feet hurt, my wrists hurt,” said Renee Holmes, 51, “to the point where I have to take a Motrin nearly every day.”
Cleaning one of the hotel’s 360 rooms after a guest leaves involves changing the bedding, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, and wiping down the furniture, she said. The number of rooms assigned for an eight-hour shift leaves just a half-hour for all those tasks in each room. It can be even more work in a room where guests slept in both beds.
A more manageable assignment, workers said, would be 10 rooms a shift.
City Councilmember Helen Gym spoke to strikers Sunday afternoon, and noted that $100 billion in federal bailout money was allocated to support the hotel industry. That money, she said, was intended to keep workers employed and paid living wages. The hotel is in one of the wealthiest parts of the city, Gym said, and the people serving its clientele should get a piece of that wealth.
“There is no wealth, unless there’s wealth for everybody,” she said. “There’s no prosperity, unless it’s a prosperity for everybody.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. See all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.