Unionized Hotel Workers in Los Angeles, San Francisco Authorize Strikes; Health Care Contributions Part of Negotiations
Hotel workers in Los Angeles and San Francisco who are represented by the union Unite Here on Tuesday voted to authorize strikes because contract negotiations with their employers have stalled over health care and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reports (White, Los Angeles Times, 9/15). 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 (Sarkar, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15). If successful, the move would give the unions "added bargaining muscle" in their next contracts, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 9/15). Hotels in both San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeking five-year contracts (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15).
In Los Angeles County, about 75% of the union's 2,800 local waiters, housekeepers and other workers at nine "upscale" hotels cast ballots, and 83% of the votes authorized union leaders to call a strike if labor negotiations fail, the Times reports. The hotels seek to pass more health care costs to workers, which the union opposes. Negotiations began in March.
This week, negotiations in both Los Angeles and San Francisco have been on hold, but Peter Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, has been talking separately with union and hotel officials. The Los Angeles hotels have formed an agreement under which all hotels would lock out union workers if the union strikes at any one of them. In addition, the agreement requires all nine hotels to abide by an "offensive lockout" if six hotels approve such an action.
Maria Elena Durazo, president of Unite Here Local 11, said the vote "shows that [hotel workers] are pretty fed up."
Fred Muir, a spokesperson for the hotels, said, "We hope there is no strike. Everybody loses in a strike," adding, "We are doing what we can to avoid this by staying at the bargaining table and working with a mediator" (Los Angeles Times, 9/15).
In San Francisco, 77% of the union's 4,000 hotel and restaurant employees at 14 major hotels in the city cast ballots, and 97.3% approved a measure to authorize a strike. The union opposes the hotels' proposal to raise employees' health care premium contributions from $10 to as much as $273 per month.
Union members, who have been working without a contract since Aug. 14, also seek higher wage increases than the hotels' proposed 20 cent-per-hour wage increase for workers who do not receive tips and five cent-per-hour wage increase for workers who do receive tips.
Mark Huntley -- president of the Multi-Employer Group, which represents the San Francisco hotels -- said in a statement that the hotels will continue negotiating with the union "around the clock, if necessary, to reach a fair and equitable agreement."
Mike Casey, president of Unite Here Local 2, also pledged to continue negotiation efforts and said no deadline has been set for a strike (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15).
APM's "Marketplace" on Tuesday reported on the hotel workers' authorization to strike. The segment includes comments from Mark Theodore, a labor attorney in Los Angeles; Fred Muir, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council; John Wilhelm, president of the hospitality division at Unite Here; and hotel workers (Myrow, "Marketplace," APM, 9/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.