Six workers in the South are standing up to a billion-dollar hotel chain

Hotel workers went on strike to demand safe working conditions, an end to racist verbal abuse, and the reinstatement of two Black women workers

February 21, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Jacqueline Mccallum (center left) marches alongside fellow workers and supporters in front of Cambria Hotel, Morrisville. (Photo: Union of Southern Service Workers)

Six Cambria hotel workers went on strike yesterday morning, February 20, in Morrisville, North Carolina. Workers rallied among a crowd of 50 in front of the hotel, joined by fellow members of the Union of Southern Service Workers, as well as supporters. The workers, all of whom are Black, are demanding an end to racist verbal abuse, safer working conditions, and the immediate reinstatement of two workers who were unjustly fired last week. 

“We feel like we’re discriminated [against] here. Sometimes we get referred to as ‘boy’ or ‘brother’ instead of our names,” said striking hotel worker Christopher Daughterty. 

Workers also accuse management of racial discrimination in their decision to abruptly fire two Black women. Bobbie Fuller, one of the fired workers, said, “When they fired us, they fired the only two black women with power in the hotel.”

“Bobbie and Jackie were the only African-Americans in the housekeeping department,” said worker Will Leathers. “And they were the only two that were unjustly let go.” Will Leathers also claimed that the owner of the hotel at one point refused to shake hands with a Black worker.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, Bobbie Fuller and Jacqueline Mccallum were fired at the same time, with no reason given. These terminations come in the context of racial discrimination at the hotel according to workers. According to other workers at the hotel, Fuller and Mccallum were some of the hardest workers and took tremendous risks to their own and their family’s safety and wellbeing when they worked through the worst part of the pandemic. Jacqueline Mccallum described some of the sacrifices she made: “Coming in when I’m sick, I have kids at home, I’ve missed different things with my kids at home.”

Racial discrimination at the workplace continues to be pervasive in the US. According to a recent report, over 200,000 Black and Latina women have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic. A Hue and Harris Poll report found that 80% of Black and Indigenous workers do not feel as if their workplace has made significant progress on building a more equitable environment since the June 2020 anti-racist protests. A 2020 Gallup survey found that one in four Black people in the US experienced discrimination in the workplace in the previous 12 months.

The Cambria workers also denounced unsafe working conditions. Workers complained of mold in the hotel rooms, sewage issues, and pests. Will Leathers described being at work when a pipe burst. “Water just started falling from the ceiling,” he said. “Some of us lost maybe two, three days worth of pay, because [the hotel] had no guests.”

The Choice Hotels group, which Cambria Hotels is part of, is nowhere near short on money. For the 2022 fiscal year, Choice reported a 31% increase in revenue from the previous year, putting total revenue at USD$1.4 billion

Morrisville Cambria workers continue to stand up to the billion-dollar company. “We want to be treated as human beings, and not as pawns in their game,” said striking worker Duane Hoskins.