For immediate release
September 5, 2005
Ian Lewis (415) 608-3875
Mike Casey (415) 310-1001
Hotel Workers Rally on Labor Day for a New Contract; 61 Arrested in Non-Violent Civil Disobedience
San Francisco, CA – Over 750 hotel workers and their allies took to the streets Labor Day, to demonstrate for a new contract and to call on customers to boycott 13 Multi-Employer Group hotels. They marched past several hotels from Market Street to Union Square, ending with a rally in front of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. At the Grand Hyatt, 61 hotel workers, union leaders, and community allies engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, blocking the entrance to the hotel.
This civil disobedience was a message to potential guests of the 13 MEG hotels under boycott, that they should take their business elsewhere. Among those arrested were John Wilhelm (General President of UNITE HERE!), Mike Casey (President of Local 2), as well as numerous hotel workers labor and community leaders. The 61 people were arrested, cited with “interfering with business” (a misdemeanor), and released.
This demonstration comes more than a year after the workers’ contracts expired, and nine months after their employers were forced to end a 7 1/2- week lockout. Contracts affecting 8,500 San Francisco hotel workers expired in August 2004. Hotel workers have been fighting for several key contract terms, including: modest wage increases; fully-funded healthcare for workers & their families; continued pension benefits; organizing rights for other hotel workers in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties; and an expiration date in August 2006.
14 of the largest hotels – members of the San Francisco Hotels Multi-Employer Group (MEG), employing 4,500 workers – have been the focus of negotiations. On September 2004, workers went on a two-week strike at 4 hotels. This was a measured response to the lack of progress in negotiations, signaling workers’ determination to win a fair contract. The other MEG hotels immediately locked out their employees, and announced their intention to keep workers out of their jobs indefinitely. After 7 1/2 weeks of 24-hour picket lines, however, in the face of workers’ continued determination and community outrage, management backed down and ended the lockout.
Since that time, hotel workers have continued to boycott the MEG hotels – urging customers to move their business to hotels where there is no labor dispute. To date, the union estimates that the MEG has lost more than $90 million in revenues, as a result of the boycott. Last week, on September 1, the owner of the Westin St. Francis (the Blackstone Group) stated that it was prepared to accept a union settlement proposal. In response, the rank-and-file negotiating committee of Local 2 has decided to suspend the boycott at that hotel. The boycott continues at 13 other MEG hotels: The Argent; Crowne Plaza Union Square; Fairmont; Four Seasons; Grand Hyatt; Hilton; Holiday Inn Civic Center; Holiday Inn Express; Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf; Hyatt Regency; Mark Hopkins; Omni; Sheraton Palace.
The boycott began last fall after the Multi-Employer Group locked out employees. In September, 2004 Local 2 commenced a two-week strike at four hotels. It was a measured response to the lack of progress at the bargaining table. Ten other Multi-Employer Group hotels immediately locked out their employees and all 14 hotels continued the lockout of 4,300 workers after the strike ended and the workers attempted to return to work. After 7 1/2 weeks of 24-hour a day picket lines, in the face of the workers’ continued determination and the community’s outrage, management backed down and ended the lockout. The hotel workers returned to their jobs on November 23 and continued the boycott. 8,500 San Francisco hotel workers have been working without a contract for over a year.