Battered SF tourism industry faces more tumult

The City’s tourism industry is bracing for another hit as 850 workers at a major Union Square hotel threaten to walk off the job.

On Wednesday, union workers at the 1,900-room, 46-story Hilton San Francisco Union Square voted 74 percent in favor of authorizing a strike.

Leadership of the union, Unite Here! Local 2, said it hasn’t decided when to strike or for how long. Hotel management could avoid work action if it “bargains in good faith,” union spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta said.

A hotel spokesman said it’s the union that has stopped negotiating. Should workers walk off the job, Hilton has a contingency plan to staff the hotel “with minimal disruption to its guests,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Nevertheless, city officials say the labor dispute will hurt tourism, San Francisco’s No. 1 industry.

The union represents about 9,000 hotel workers at 61 city properties. It has been squabbling with managers of several major hotel chains over contracts for more than a year. Its pickets, boycotts and temporary strikes at downtown hotels — including others in Union Square — have cost The City, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The labor activity is partly to blame for why 10 conventions and meetings have either canceled or opted not to come to San Francisco this year, according to the bureau. That lost business erased some $8 million in hotel rooms, transportation, retail sales and visitor attractions, the bureau said.

Last year, tourism provided $426 million in tax and fee revenue to San Francisco.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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