Hotel Workers’ Union Criticizes Decision To Decline Funding To Extend Health Coverage for Locked Out Employees
Representatives for the hotel workers' union Unite Here at a news conference on Thursday criticized hotel management trustees' decision on Monday to block the use of $4.4 million from a $22 million joint hotel-union emergency trust fund to finance health benefits from December to January for about 1,400 hotel workers who have been locked out during a contract dispute, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12).
Hotel employees began a strike Sept. 29 because they said negotiations with employers over a contract that expires Dec. 1 had stalled.
Workers at four hotels in San Francisco on Oct. 13 ended their two-week strike over contract issues, but the hotels -- and 10 others where employees did not strike -- said they would maintain an employee lockout until they reached a contract settlement (California Healthline, 10/28).
Hotel employers on Wednesday proposed a new contract that would apply to about 4,100 hotel employees and 3,100 retired employees. According to the Chronicle, the offer is "an improvement on an offer made a month ago, but still asks workers to pay substantially more" for health coverage than they pay under the existing contract.
Under the most recent five-year contract proposal, a single employee in the first year would pay $22 per month in the first year of the contract and $40 per month for coverage during the fourth and fifth years of the contract. Employees with dependents in the first year of the contract would pay between $43 and $73 per month and between $79 and $119 per month during the last years of the contract, the Chronicle reports.
The contract also would increase the number of hours an employee must work to be eligible for health benefits from 18 hours per month to 80 hours per month. Union officials say 1,100 workers and dependents would lose coverage under the changed eligibility requirements, but hotel operators say the change would affect about 155 employees (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12).
Under the proposal offered last month, employees would have paid $32.53 per month during the first year of the contract and as much as $273.42 per month by the fifth year. The current contract has required employees for the last 20 years to pay $10 per month for health coverage, whether for one person or a large family (California Healthline, 10/28).
Hotel operators say they pay about $650 per month per employee for health care benefits and costs could increase to $1,200 per employee per month over the next five years.
Unite Here Local 2 President Mike Casey said employers' refusal to extend health coverage to locked out workers "is unconscionable, indefensible and it will not stand." He added that the vote was "perhaps the cruelest turn, this insult to injury."
Matt Adams, vice president of the San Francisco Multi-Employer Group and managing director of the Hyatt Regency, said that union officials "had every opportunity to bring the employees back to work" and called the renewed negotiations "another opportunity." He added, "We have presented a generous and complete heath care and welfare package, and they now owe us a substantive counterproposal'' (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12).