San Francisco Hotel Workers Strike; Health Benefits Among Negotiation Points
About 1,400 employees of four "prominent" hotels in San Francisco who are represented by the union Unite Here on Wednesday morning began striking in protest of a range of issues, including protecting health benefits, the Los Angeles Times reports (White, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Workers in September voted to authorize strikes because contract negotiations with their employers have stalled. The two unions and a hotel union in Washington, D.C., have sought two-year contracts that would expire at the same time as those in six other cities and Hawaii. If successful, the move would give the unions additional leverage in their next contracts. Hotels in both San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeking five-year contracts (California Healthline, 9/15).
Unite Here's national president for hospitality services, John Wilhelm, said Wednesday that hotel workers' decision to strike was made independently and was not part of a coordinated action (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Workers at the Hilton San Francisco, Crowne Plaza Union Square, Argent Hotel and Mark Hopkins Intercontinental at about 5 a.m. formed picket lines. Union officials have said the strike will last for two weeks if there is no resolution. Employees did not stop work at 10 other hotels involved in the negotiations (Washington Post, 9/30).
According to the Times, the strike "was the most aggressive step taken yet by the Unite Here union in this year's protracted contract disputes."
Mike Casey, president of San Francisco Unite Here Local 2, said he hoped the strike would encourage meaningful negotiations between union leaders and the hotel operators.
Unite Here has emphasized the need to act in unison against an "increasingly consolidated hotel industry" on such issues as preserving health coverage, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Casey said, "People go out on strike out of respect. They have been abused, they have been mistreated and they have been taken for granted. They want respect" (Leff, AP/San Luis Obsipo Tribune, 9/29).
Barbara French, spokesperson for the San Francisco hotels in the Multi-Employer Group. said, "The actions of the union today have significantly escalated." French added that the group considered an action against even one of the hotels "an action against all."
The San Francisco hotels have a lockout agreement in which they are able to bar all union workers under certain circumstances. French said that there had been discussion of the agreement but no decision on such a lockout.
No new talks have been scheduled after they were suspended in September when federal mediator Peter Hurtgen left the country on previously scheduled business (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).