About 2,900 hotel workers in San Francisco, Honolulu, and Chicago walked off the job this past week, striking against the owners of three Hilton hotels. The strikes are all short-term, ending Tuesday morning, October 19.
Hotel workers from Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco announced a six-day strike on October 13 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. About 850 workers walked off the job. The hotel is the second-largest Hilton property in the country, with 1,908 guest rooms and 134,500 square feet of meeting space. At least one group, the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association, was scheduled to meet at the hotel during the action (October 16-19).
On October 14, 1,500 hotel workers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village went on a five-day strike. The hotel is the largest Hilton property in the U.S., with 3,600 rooms and 150,000 square feet of meeting space. Picket lines are up in front of both hotels and will continue, day and night, until the strike ends at 4 a.m. Tuesday.
And in Chicago, about 600 workers at the Hilton Chicago walked off the job Saturday morning, October 16, announcing a three-day strike. The Hilton Chicago has 1,544 guest rooms and 234,000 square feet of meeting space. The Chicago workers, all members of Unite Here Local 1, joined the strike to help their colleagues in San Francisco and Hawaii to make a louder statement about their Unite Here Local 1 spokeswoman.situation, said Annemarie Strassel,
Workers at the San Francisco and Honolulu properties have been working without Blackstone Group, a New York–based private equity company that wholly owns Hilton Hotels, with wanting to keep workers in “recessionary contracts,” despite projections that revenues and occupancy will continue to rise for the next few years. Also, the union is upset that Hilton received $180 million in federal bailout money to help its recovery but is not “sharing the recovery” with workers. The major sticking points are wages, health care, and pensions. Union officials cited a proposal that would require housekeepers to clean 40 percent more rooms per day. “Hotel workers are on strike to protect their jobs, and to ensure that they move forward out of the recession, just as their employer Blackstone does,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer.for several months. The unions charge
“It is unfortunate that Local 2’s leadership has chosen to take this unnecessary step,” said hotel officials in a statement. “Union tactics such as work stoppages and demonstrations are harmful to employees, to the hospitality industry, and to the City of San Francisco. Instead of being committed to taking actions that attempt to drive business out of San Francisco, Local 2 should commit itself to return to the bargaining table to resolve our differences.”
Michael Dunne, general manager of the Union Square property, says the work stoppage has had little impact on operations or guests, and that the hotel is operating normally, with sufficient staffing in all departments. The hotel’s contingency plan includes hiring temporary workers and bringing in Hilton managers from other hotels in the city and from across the country. “Hyatt, Starwood, Marriott, and a lot of the independents sent managers in, so we are fully staffed,” says Dunne. “The goal for us is to maintain service, so we have a good plan in place.”
On October 15, the hotel was sold out, says Dunne. They held a Boy Scout luncheon for over 900 people and were ready to welcome the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association on Saturday. “We just did the pre-con, and we also have the Nike Marathon this weekend. Then you have the Giants coming back to town to play the Phillies, so the city is busy for several different reasons,” he says.
On October 14, hotel industry leaders from San Francisco held a press conference at the Union Square hotel to denounce the strike and urge the union to get back to the bargaining table. Dunne was in attendance along with general managers from major convention hotels from across the city. The heads of the chamber of commerce and the Hotel Council of San Francisco were also on hand.
“The economic foundation of San Francisco’s economy is tourism and hospitality, which produced $7.8 billion in business in 2009 and is responsible for more than 20,000 direct jobs—and numerous indirect jobs—and provided $426 million in taxes to San Francisco just last year,” said Dunne at the meeting, according to a press release. “It’s time that Local 2 stopped picketing and boycotting and become a responsible member of our community. The first step they can take is to negotiate a new contract.”