Earlier this week, the Tech Workers Coalition and UNITE HERE! in San Francisco hosted a panel discussion on how we can use our power as consumers to support hotel workers in the Bay Area and across the United States. The tech industry is full of remote workers, as well as conference organizers that host thousands of conferences each year — meaning thousands of programmers, designers, product managers, and others travel all the time to attend these conferences or attend their own company’s events. By choosing to stay at a fair hotel, you can make a significant impact on an industry where workers are struggling to negotiate fair wages and benefits.

What is a Fair Hotel?

A Fair Hotel is one in which the workers are treated fairly and have negotiated fair labor contracts, giving them the opportunity for a better life. FairHotel.org is one of the many initiatives from UNITE HERE!, a union of 270,000 hotel, cafeteria, airport food service, and casino workers across the country. They are predominantly women, immigrants, and people of color. UNITE HERE! represents these workers in the hospitality industry to improve their wages and benefits — that is, earning a living wage, having access to affordable health care, getting paid breaks, paid holidays, and paid time off, guaranteed raises, and more. These are basic benefits that we take for granted in the tech industry — not to mention all the other common perks.

Why, what, and how

Workers in other industries deserve to be treated just as well as tech workers. Unfortunately, the tech industry has a negative impact on the cities and communities in which it thrives. Gentrification is a major problem in tech hubs like the Bay Area, New York, Seattle, Austin, and many others. But rather than feel helpless and complicit, you can leverage your consumer power (and that of your company) to help offset some of the economic disruption that tech causes.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Watch the video recording of the panel discussion and read Paige Panter’s blog post about the event to learn more.
  2. Always try to book a Fair Hotel first. (Unfortunately, Fair Hotels are not available everywhere.) They even have an app. (iOS, Android)
  3. Don’t just implement this for work travel. Try booking Fair Hotels for your personal travel as well.
  4. Avoid staying at hotels that are currently in a labor dispute. Remember, boycotts work.
  5. Encourage your co-workers, family, and friends to book Fair Hotels. One of the challenges that UNITE HERE! faces is educating the public.
  6. Initiate a policy change at your company to prefer Fair Hotels for company-expensed travel. Your company can become a FairHotel Partner.
  7. If you are organizing a conference at a hotel, make sure the event contract includes protective language that allows you to cancel the event without consequence should a labor dispute arise.
  8. Contact the Tech Workers Coalition for help.