San Francisco hotel workers vote to authorize strike
Photo(s) by Stephen Dorian
By Tamara Barak / Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
August 24, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -Housekeepers, line cooks, food servers
and other staff at 13 San Francisco hotels voted overwhelmingly
tonight to authorize a strike if necessary.
According to Unite Here Local 2 President Mike Casey, 93 percent
of workers who voted tonight cast 'yes' votes. In total, 2,241
union members voted to authorize a strike and 168 voted against
it. About 59 percent of the bargaining unit vote.
Contract negotiations have been stalled for about two years.
Union leaders hope the threat of a strike will motivate employers
to finally come to an agreement with the workers.
"We're hoping these guys come to their senses and make a
deal happen," Casey said.
The two sides are scheduled to meet at the bargaining table Monday
through Friday of next week.
"We're not going on strike immediately. We'll see how things
play out the early part of next week," Casey said.
Earlier today, a spokesman for the San Francisco Multi-Employer
Group, which represents the 13 hotels still involved in the contract
dispute, acknowledged the union's efforts to speed negotiations,
but he played down talk of an actual strike.
"What's being lost in the whole process is that this is
just an authorization to strike," spokesman Noah Griffin
said. "If it's going to light a fire, then we hope both sides
will see the light of settlement, not the heat of conflict."
At issue are several provisions of a new contract that has yet
to be ratified. The last official contract expired in 2004, resulting
in a two-week strike by workers and a subsequent seven-week lockout
initiated by hotel management.
According to Casey, the union is looking for full health care
benefits, retirement and pension packages, and retroactive wage
One of the main sticking points, health care, is close to resolution,
according to Griffin. He said a "substantial" offer
is on the table.
Casey said the union is looking for a major offer on a health
plan. He acknowledged that health care costs have skyrocketed
recently, but he said hotel profits have as well.
On top of the monetary demands, workers also are looking for
job security and the right to organize.
Casey added that recent refinements in hotel rooms have led to
an increased workload for housekeeping staff, and he wants that
addressed as well.
"It used to be that every bed had four pillows," Casey
said. "Now, you've got eight, sometimes even 12 pillows to
clean, plus these huge duvets to take care of. It's really added
to the housekeepers' work load."
One thing on which both sides agree: tourism in San Francisco
is on the rebound.
According to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau,
occupancy and hotel room rates were up in 2005 from the previous
Preliminary numbers for 2006 also show an upswing in tourist
activity. The bureau's numbers come from a hospitality research
Griffin said the boost in business is an urgent reason to resolve
the contract dispute.
"It behooves the hotel workers, the hotels and the people
of San Francisco to get this thing quickly resolved," Griffin
Mayor Gavin Newsom, who became involved in contract negotiations
after the 2004 lockout, has been monitoring the progress of talks
for the last six months, according to a spokesman for his office.
Newsom hopes for an amicable resolution and will only join negotiations
if invited by both parties, the spokesman said.
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