An open letter to Marriott about VERGE 18 and workers’ rights

An open letter to Marriott about VERGE 18 and workers’ rights

GreenBiz Group

October 11, 2018

Arne Sorenson
President and CEO
Marriott International
10400 Fernwood Rd
Bethesda, MD 20817

Dear Mr. Sorenson,

We are writing to share our deep concerns regarding the labor strikes happening at Marriott International properties across the country, including at the Marriott Oakland City Center hotel and convention center, where GreenBiz Group is planning to host our annual VERGE 18 conference and expo next week.

GreenBiz Group is the leading media and events company at the intersection of business, sustainability and innovation. Our events deliver a global audience of sustainability executives and business leaders who are building the clean economy. Marriott has been a long-time partner of ours. In fact, a significant amount of our 2018 revenue is currently projected to be generated by events hosted at Marriott properties.

GreenBiz Group offers our employees a competitive wage that does not require them to work a second job to live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Further, we offer a competitive benefits package, including health and dental, retirement and paid vacation. We ensure they have safe working conditions and have input on wages, benefits and working conditions. As a relatively small business, this can be a financial stretch for us, but we know it is the right thing to do for our employees and the best way to build a sustainable business with an engaged and productive workforce.

We ask that you provide the same for your workers, both here in the San Francisco Bay Area and worldwide. We wholeheartedly support UNITE HERE’s request for a labor contract that allows their employees to be paid a living wage and doesn’t require them to work more than one job to make ends meet. They deserve reliable health insurance; safer working conditions for women; stronger sexual harassment protections; and negotiated technology and innovation language that will keep workers safe without eliminating jobs.

We ask that you resolve these disputes quickly so your employees can go back to work at your properties and your customers can produce events that are critical to the success of their businesses.

While this is a challenging time for UNITE HERE workers and Marriott International, it is equally challenging for GreenBiz Group. We have been in close communications with the union, helping them understand that we stand with them — and, in fact, our event has a strong focus on equity and inclusion, and how to build a clean economy that works for all.

At the same time, we have unsuccessfully searched for an alternative venue for an event a few short days away. VERGE is a fairly complex event, requiring a large ballroom, 14 concurrent breakout rooms, up to 10 small meeting rooms, 10,000 square feet of outdoor space to house the microgrid and other space and amenities.

The upshot: There is no place to go. And with more than 2,500 guests coming from around the world, we are unable to cancel or change dates.

Make no mistake: VERGE 18 will take place next week. It will be our biggest, most impressive VERGE event yet, with more than 100 breakout and mainstage sessions as well as a long list of events, showcases, summits, demonstrations, performances, tours and networking events. We’re excited to engage the Oakland community, including a host of local community organizations, and are giving scholarships to a group of diverse young talents, including from disadvantaged Oakland neighborhoods.

We are committed as ever to Oakland and the Bay Area, and to the rich and beautiful diversity of our community. We strongly ask you to join us in that support by enabling those who work at your properties the means to support their basic human needs, and to do so with dignity and respect.

We would ask nothing less of ourselves.


Joel Makower, Co-Founder and Chairman

Pete May, Co-Founder and President

Eric Faurot, CEO