For immediate release
October 13, 2010
San Francisco workers lead campaign demanding Hilton "share the recovery"
(San Francisco, CA) – More than a year after union hotel contracts expired, 850 hotel workers at the Hilton Union Square, the nation’s second largest Hilton hotel, walked off the job at 4:00 a.m. today. Workers announced a six-day strike protesting Hilton’s efforts to lock workers into permanent recessionary contracts, even after Hilton extracted $180 million in corporate breaks from taxpayers.
Hilton Worldwide, owned by one of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms – the Blackstone Group [NYSE: BX] – is taking unfair advantage of its workers and the American taxpayers. Blackstone owed about $320 million in debt to the Federal Reserve, but persuaded the agency to accept just $142 million in payment. Taxpayers bear the cost of the remaining $180 million. Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Hotels recently described the effect of the debt deal on his company: “We were in good shape before and we’re in exceptionally good shape now.” (Hotel News Now, 9/28/2010). Meanwhile, Hilton workers face proposals that would increase family health care costs by hundreds of dollars a month, freeze pensions, reduce staffing and increase workloads.
Most recently, Blackstone proposed that housekeepers clean 20 rooms a day, instead of 14, a 40% increase in workload, under their Refresh Program. “We call it the Dirty Room Program,” said Guadalupe Chavez, a 30 –year housekeeper at Hilton Union Square. “They’ve already taken $180 million of our taxes and now they want us to subsidize them by lowering our standards at work and customers’ standards for a clean hotel.”
“Why should my tax dollars subsidize a growing and successful corporation like Blackstone, while thousands of working families, like mine, are struggling to pay mortgages, pay their children’s college tuition, pay for health care, and save for retirement?” asks Ringo Mak, a 20 year server at the Hilton Union Square. “Our taxes should be used to protect good jobs, but instead, Blackstone is using our tax dollars to lock us into a permanent recession.”
Blackstone Group manages $100 billion in assets for large pension funds. Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8% annually from 2010 through 2014.
In a September 2010 analyst call, Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of Real Estate stated, "In terms of the hotel business, this is the one area where we’ve seen a dramatic pick up, I think, faster than we and many people expected… where it was initially just occupancy, we’re now beginning to see room rates also creep up, which is very powerful for hotel companies and hotel assets’ bottom lines.” Despite these trends, “Blackstone is still an obstacle to our recovery,” said Chavez. “Blackstone is lining their pockets while taking advantage of taxpayers and preventing a strong recovery for working families.”
“We, as hotel workers and as taxpayers, are striking to protect our jobs, to prevent Blackstone from adding to our nation’s unemployment rate. We are striking to protect our future,” said Ingrid Carp, a 30 – year cook at the Hilton Union Square.
UNITE HERE Local 2, represents 12,000 hospitality and food service workers in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.