San Francisco Mayor Joins Hotel Workers’ Picket Line
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday joined striking unionized hotel workers on the picket line after employers at 14 of the city's largest hotels rejected his proposal for a 90-day cooling-off period in a labor dispute involving 4,000 workers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27). About 1,400 employees represented by the union Unite Here began a strike on Sept. 29 because they said contract negotiations with employers had stalled.
Unions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and 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. Hotel owners involved in the San Francisco negotiations offered a five-year contract proposal under which workers' contributions to health plan premiums would increase from $10 per month to $32.53 per month during the first year of the contract and to $273.42 per month by the fifth year.
Workers at four hotels in San Francisco on Oct. 13 ended their two-week strike over contract issues, such as health care, 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, 10/18).
On Monday, Newsom proposed that both the union and the hotels agree to a 90-day cooling-off period during which employees would return to work.
Mike Casey, president of the local chapter of Unite Here, wrote to Newsom to accept the plan, under which union members would return to work unconditionally on Wednesday and stay through Jan. 25 while negotiations proceeded on remaining issues, the Chronicle reports (Rubenstein/Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/26).
However, the hotels on Tuesday rejected the proposal.
Matt Adams, vice president of the Multi-Employer Group and vice president and managing director of the Hyatt Regency, said the cooling-off period only would delay negotiations and benefit the union's position, according to the Chronicle.
Newsom said that he does not understand why the hotels refused his offer, adding, "I did understand it for two weeks -- a two-week lockout for a two-week strike. Tit for tat. But that's behind us now. Let's get back to work and work out an equitable deal."
Newsom also reiterated Tuesday a pledge that the city would boycott the hotels by not sponsoring any city events in them. He said, "Why would I ever sponsor a city event in 14 hotels that are attacking, from my perspective, the city and the values of the city? I would never do that. And I encourage others to pause and reflect." Adams said the hotel employers are "disappointed" by Newsom's boycott, adding, "His waging war on our hotels is going to hurt the entire tourism industry in this city. His actions will only further hurt the economy."
In related news, union spokesperson Valerie Lapin said union leaders are trying to find a way to extend workers' health benefits, which will run out in December for most workers. Union workers receive benefits from the hotels two months in advance based on the number of hours they work each month (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.