Hotel Council Urges UNITE HERE Union to Bargain, Not Protest
SAN FRANCISCO —This month marks a distressing anniversary in San Francisco: It was one year ago that the hotel employees union, Unite Here Local 2, decided that it would rather attack the city’s economic lifeblood than agree on a new contract for its nearly 9,000 union members.
Local 2 represents workers in unionized hotels around the City, whose contracts expired Aug. 14, 2009. Since then, the union has engaged in a campaign to undermine the tourism industry in San Francisco, the city’s largest single industry.
“A contract should have been reached by now if Local 2’s leaders truly had been interested in coming to the bargaining table and willing to negotiate,” said Patricia Breslin, executive director of the San Francisco Hotel Council, a trade organization representing the City’s hotels. “Instead, they have put the livelihood of tens of thousands of workers at risk–including their own members.”
Instead of trying to negotiate a new contract, Local 2 has staged countless walkouts and pickets on the grounds that there was “no progress” in reaching a contract they are unwilling to negotiate.
Local 2’s leaders have issued calls for convention planners to boycott San Francisco, to cancel their plans to hold large events here, and to prevent the planning of future events. Because major conventions need to plan a year or more in advance – and usually alternate their location between East and West coasts – this boycott could have the effect of costing San Francisco three or four years’ worth of convention business.
“Fortunately, Local 2 has largely been unsuccessful in turning business away from San Francisco,” Breslin said. “But their actions are indicative that they will gladly harm the City of San Francisco and every business in it.”
Breslin pointed out that business at hotels represents just 30 cents of every tourism dollar spent in San Francisco. The other 70 cents supports taxi drivers, servers at restaurants and bars, tour guides, and unionized convention center workers.
The actions orchestrated by Local 2’s leaders have been costly to tens of thousands of San Francisco workers in the tourism industry and they have been a direct drain on the city’s already depleted coffers.
Every time a convention goes to another city instead of coming to S.F., the hotel tax as well as sales taxes and fees paid for the use of city convention facilities like Moscone Center are lost.
Then there is also the immense cost to the city to provide public safety services around Local 2’s staged media events.
In just the most recent action, Local 2 arranged for about 900 protesters to block all access to Stockton Street and the area around Union Square , at the height of rush hour. The event was so highly staged that the union had negotiated with the police well in advance to decide how many of these “protesters” would be arrested, booked and processed. More than 100 officers were required to handle the event, officers who were either pulled from other duties or paid overtime wages to deal with this event.
“When any other group stages an event – whether it is the San Francisco Marathon or an anti-war march – the organizers must pay the city for the cost of those police services. Yet, incredibly, Local 2 was able to disrupt the city in such a staged manner without being made to pay more than a permit fee. All the cost was borne by taxpayers – including the very tourism industry workers whose livelihoods are threatened by these questionable practices,” Breslin said.
It has become clear in the past year that securing a fair contract for its members is the last priority for Local 2’s leadership. Everything they have done is for a different agenda, one that may advance Local 2’s standing within their national organization but does incredible harm to their San Francisco members and the economy upon which they and their families depend.
Breslin said Local 2 and its leadership should be “held accountable by everyone in the City, as well as its own members. It’s high time for Local 2 to negotiate a contract, and work to restore the vital industry they have tried so hard to destroy.”
See Related: ECONOMY
SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY