Just when you thought the plutocratic profiteers running America’s exploitative, low-wage economy couldn’t get any more clueless, self-serving, pious, and mingy — along comes Lady Maria of Marriott, magnanimously saying: “Let them eat tips.”

Marriott International supports the political notion that America is divided between a few noble “makers” (like them) and a mass of “takers” (you, me, and the rest of us). Its approximately 4,000 hotels in 78 countries and territories have more than 690,000 rooms and operate under 18 different brand names that range from plebeian chains like Fairfield Inn & Suites to the luxury Ritz-Carlton properties.

Tips for Underpaid Hotel Workers


The company hauled in nearly $13 billion in revenue last year.

Yet the extravagantly rich Marriott domain is a miserly employer that fattens its profits by paying its hard-working housekeepers poverty-level wages of roughly $8.32 an hour.

Enter Maria Shriver, grandly offering to boost the pay of Marriott’s 22,000 North American housekeepers. A pay raise, perhaps? Oh, tut-tut — the moneyed elites prefer charitable gestures to straightforward populist remedies.

So Shriver’s foundation has “partnered” with the far-flung hotel empire to reduce its low-wage housekeepers to begging for alms from Marriott customers. The corporate giant has adopted Shriver’s noblesse oblige with its “the envelope please” program that consists of putting an envelope in each room asking customers to subsidize its employees’ wages with tips.

The envelope even scolds customers, saying: “The hard work (of room attendants) is many times overlooked when it comes to tipping.”

Hello — Marriott is the one deliberately overlooking the hard work of its own workers. This is a disgraceful and embarrassing exercise in corporate feudalism. Come on, just pay a decent wage.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

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