Over the last 30 days, employees at Marriott Hotels in San Francisco and Oakland have been on strike demanding better pay.

Protests have grown more intense in the last 30 days as workers demand better wages in a city that has become too costly for them to live in.

Blavity, Inc. stands in full solidarity with those demonstrating against Marriott. As a result, we have decided to withdraw AfroTech’s conference presence from all Marriott venues. 

We are issuing this letter to our community to be transparent and honest about our decision. Blavity, Inc. decided last year to host part of this year’s AfroTech conference at the Palace Hotel, which is owned and operated by Marriott. We did not anticipate such strikes —  and with no resolution yet reached, we simply can not support a company that does not respect its most vulnerable workers.

Although AfroTech is just days away, all Blavity, Inc. events from the Palace Hotel will be relocated to other locations. This decision cost our company significant money — but to us, it is a small price to pay to uphold the values we hold dear. As a community, we can not build with businesses that do not have people’s best interests at heart. And, as a business, we can not support companies that can’t fairly compensate their employees, many of whom are people of color.

Emails and information will be sent to those impacted by the change in programming. In full transparency, here is the official letter that was sent to Marriott Executives:

Dear Marriott Executives and Marriott CEO Arne M. Sorenson,

For the past four weeks, strikers have demonstrated outside of Marriott hotels in San Francisco on behalf of the union demanding better wages of your employees. An agreement has yet to be reached in San Francisco, signaling to us at Blavity Inc. a lack of concern and absence of speedy executive action to compensate your employees fairly. We strongly support the UNITE HERE members who are on strike and urge you to move expeditiously toward a resolution with your employees.

As a result, I have decided to officially withdraw AfroTech’s presence at the Marriott Palace Hotel from Nov. 8 – 11, 2018. We no longer choose to support your business, invite our guests to be entertained at your venue, or stay in your hotel. At this time, we will identify another venue to house our guests and experiences.

The conference is just days away, and this decision will cost my small business hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have made this decision because I am deeply troubled with the lack of action on Marriott’s behalf to better understand and respect the basic demands presented by their core staff. Many of those protesting or affected by the protest are Black and Brown people who, despite their grueling and labor-intensive duties, are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Your workers could very well be my employees’ own mothers, cousins, uncles, and brothers.

Further, as the CEO of a company that works daily to represent community for Black and Brown people, it goes against our core values to cross the picket line. The conversations, gatherings, and stories that were scheduled to happen at your hotel were designed to bring people together, to showcase the power that is created with the collective sharing of our intellectual and social capital.

To walk through a picket line would be hypocritical and insincere. These people are not just fighting for a fair livable contract for themselves, they’re fighting for all of us.

We support those demanding fair pay and choose to no longer conduct business with Marriott’s Palace Hotel in SF until all issues around workers’ compensation are resolved and agreed to by the Union.

Morgan DeBaun
CEO, Blavity, Inc.