It’s bad enough when members of the public cross a strike picket line. It’s worse when union members do, and worse still when those union members are millionaire athletes who are looked up to by children as role models. But that’s what happened at the Boston Ritz-Carlton Hotel when 1,500 union maids and bellhops walked off the job for better wages and benefits — part of a wave of strikes by UNITE HERE members at Marriott hotels in seven cities. Their livelihoods on the line, striking members of UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston paid close attention to who was crossing their picket line.
Among the first to do so were the New York Yankees, in town to play the Red Sox. Talk about giving baseball fans one more reason to hate the Yankees. [During their stay at the struck Ritz-Carlton, picketers switched their “No contact, no peace” chant for “Yankees suck.”]
Next to cross were the Los Angeles Dodgers, also in town for games against the Red Sox. The Dodgers tried to dodge bad publicity by entering the Ritz-Carlton through the back door, but were caught on camera by strikers.
And baseballers weren’t the only union member athletes to earn disgrace. Three NBA teams also scabbed. The Boston Celtics hosted a fundraiser at the Westin Boston Waterfront, a Marriott property. And the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls, in town for games against the Boston Celtics, crossed the same UNITE HERE picket line at the Ritz-Carlton.
In the National Hockey League, the Philadelphia Flyers crossed the Ritz-Carlton picket line in late October. The Edmonton Oilers crossed it twice when they visited the Bruins.
Yankees and Dodgers are members of the Major League Baseball Players Association, which itself went on strike most recently in 1995. Celtics, Magic, and Bulls are members of the National Basketball Players Association, whose members were locked out by their employer association in 2011. And Flyers and Oilers are members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association; they were locked out by their employers in hard-ball negotiations in 2012.
Some teams did honor the strike picket line
There were alternatives, and UNITE HERE made every effort to help teams find non-striking hotels as an alternative. When the Houston Astros came to Boston to play the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, they changed their hotel accommodations to avoid crossing the picket line. So did the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team when they came to Boston in November. And in San Francisco, the NBA’s Washington Wizards switched hotels to avoid crossing a picket line.
In the end, the Boston portion of the strike ended Nov. 21 — after 45 days, and resulted in higher wages and better benefits, including paid parental leave.
Hotel housekeepers, who made $21.50 per hour, will see wages rise to $26 and $27 per hour, and all employees will get fully-paid parental leave and an improved pension.
But for some sports fans, the memory of betrayal will remain.