These are the words that a local union leader shouted to a crowd of employees this morning on the streets of San Francisco.
“You are not alone. We are not alone. Our brothers and sisters are out with us all over — from out on the streets in Philadelphia to just down the road here.”
This morning, like every morning this week, I’ve woken up to the sounds of drums and shouts on the street. In front of nearly ever Marriott managed hotel in San Francisco, people are gathering, carrying signs and wearing shirts that say, “One job should be enough.”
Today (as I learned), they were celebrating. Earlier this morning, employees at the JW Marriott approached the General Manager of the hotel and shared their grievances: That all employees (including dishwashers, housekeepers, and cooks) should be able to be a part of the same union as the engineers and bellhop teams.
I’m sure it’s much more nuanced than that, and I won’t pretend to know all of the details of the strike or attempt to explain the conditions that might appease these groups. (You can read a bit more about it here and here if you like.) But I was struck by the camaraderie and community of the people on the streets, so much so that I stuck around to listen for about 15 minutes.
I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to confront your superiors in that way — even if you do know you have the backing of a union (and in this case, also a lawyer) behind you. The fear of losing your job, losing a source of income, and letting down your family must be overwhelming. That’s why the community on the street was so impactful. There’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one out there, that there people just like you in cities all over the country who might be doing the very same thing. Some reports estimate the number of striking workers to be greater than 8,000 employees.
People had tears in their eyes as the local leader encouraged everybody to chant: “Si se puede.”
Then they chanted two more times: In Tagalog and Cantonese.
My favorite part of this morning’s rally was when the group leader encouraged the individuals who worked for this particular hotel to start their work days. Everybody walked up the block to the staff entrance of the hotel and cheered as several housekeepers punched in the key code and started their days.
I’m always fascinated with how different organizations and communities organize and manage themselves. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this morning, maybe it’s this: People crave belonging. Together, we can do powerful things. But having proof that you aren’t the only one out there waving a sign or feeling a certain way seems to be the glue that makes movements like this work. I guess we’ll see how the rest of the week plays out to see if this one does.