As political scientists head to their annual convention, the workers at the convention hotels prepare to protest: Here’s what you can do

The American Political Science Association is holding its annual convention this coming week in Boston. As luck would have it, the three hotels (all owned by the Marriott chain) at which the convention is being held are in the midst of a labor dispute with the hotels’ workers, who are members of Local 26 of UNITEHERE.

The issues are many, but the main one is that, as the union contract has expired and the workers renegotiate a new one, they’d like to make sure that a hotel worker should only have to work at one job—not two, not three—in order to support herself and her family. That’s the workers’ demand: “One job should be enough.” And that’s the name of their campaign, which you can read more about here.

Additionally, the workers are frustrated by the hotels’ cynical use of environmentalism to cut costs and increase the burden on workers.

Whenever you go to a hotel these days, you see these signs: don’t wash your towels every day, save the environment. Or don’t opt for housekeeping, make the planet green. Sounds great, right? For the workers, it’s a nightmare. According to this eye-opening expose in the Boston Globe:

But the housekeepers who would otherwise be cleaning these rooms, many of them immigrants, say the increasingly popular programs are cutting into their livelihoods by reducing their hours, making their schedules more erratic, and — ironically — making their jobs harder. That’s because rooms that go without housekeeping for several days are often a wreck — trash piled up, shower doors coated in gunk, crumbs in the carpet, and hair everywhere.

I can’t help noting the irony: The hotel industry, which depends on the carbon-emitting and planet-destroying activity of millions of people hopping into their cars and driving to the airport where they then fly hundreds and thousands of miles to their destinations, happily gives its customers the opportunity to do their little bit for the planet by cutting workers’ hours and making their lives and jobs harder. I guess this is the hotel version of carbon offsets, and as is often the case, it’s working class people of color, many from the Global South, who pay the price.

I reached out to one of the officers at Local 26, who said that the union is not asking people to boycott the hotel or to refuse to cross picket lines. At least not yet. Instead, here are three things the union would like members of APSA to do:

  • Sign this pledge to support Marriott workers at this dispute develops.
  • Refuse the “Make a Green Choice/Your Choice” program at check in.
  • Participate in an informational picket and action that is planned at the Sheraton, one of the main hotels of the convention, on Thursday, August 30, at 1 pm. Meet at the main lobby near the front desk, which is also called the Dalton Street entrance.



  1. Goodman Jack Sr August 26, 2018 at 4:10 pm | #

    Corey, I had brunch with Murray Dry, Rachel’s dad today. Fascinating lede article in the NYT Week in Review. You are in good company.

    Jack Goodman

  2. Larry Houghteling August 26, 2018 at 4:40 pm | #

    Thanks, Corey. A smart post. I thought it was odd when I first noticed the “use-your-towels-twice” campaign at the last such joint I stayed in. Of course, they’re out to screw the staff! Duh.

    Good piece on socialism on the Times Sunday review today. Did you see the stuff about Julia Salazar in the Tablet. She’s more complicated than she appears on the surface, though being complicated can hardly be looked upon as grounds for dismissal. She certainly still seems like a credible candidate.

  3. Jim August 26, 2018 at 7:58 pm | #

    Pretty sure the “use your towel more than once” best practice standards was part of a broader international standard to reduce unnecessary water and detergent use as well as reducing water use to maintain landscaping especially in desert/semi-desert environments. I worked on this in Egypt as part of an ecotourism initiative and I have no problem with reducing water use and pollutant discharge. But no part of this initiative was ever about reducing daily housekeeping since tourists are generally far from keeping clean rooms. This is the usual attempt to combine “corporate social responsibility” with opportunistic anti-labor/anti-union practices that corporations can’t resist. I fully support resistance to the daily clean-up but the reducing water/detergent use should not be a part of the protest.

  4. Nic Cheeseman August 27, 2018 at 3:57 am | #

    Agreed. It is a good post but this is not a binary. We can fight for workers rights while not killing the environment. The hotels are sufficiently over priced that they can pay a living wage whether or not they save in washing bills …

  5. Glenn September 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm | #

    Happy May Day!

    Only in stupid America do we have our May Day in September.

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