High-profile PR man steps into hotel fight

Well-known public relations guru Sam Singer has been hired to represent the Hotel Council of San Francisco during the ongoing hotel labor dispute, the council announced Friday.

And not surprisingly, slams against the union have already begun.

Local 2 Unite Here! – which represents 9,000 hotel workers at 61 city hotels – has been staging separate, multiday strikes at various major downtown hotels during the last three weeks in order to obtain a desired contract. The contract between the union and hotels expired Aug. 14.

The union, which is in its third day of a strike at the Westin St. Francis, says the hotels are using the downward economy as an excuse to offer its low-income workers a contract that strips health benefits and pensions and imposes other draconian cutbacks. Union housekeepers make on average $30,000 per year, the union says.

Management says health care costs are skyrocketing and want workers to pay more for coverage. Managers currently pay the full cost of workers’ health care, but charge an additional $10 a month for all dependents.

Friday, the newly-hired Singer added fuel to the fight., issuing a statement that pointed out how much hotel workers in San Francisco make and how that pay compares to counterparts across the nation.

Local 2 President Mike Casey said he is disappointed the Hotel Council is becoming a partisan player in the labor dispute, which he says has not been the case in the past.

He said Singer is exaggerating workers' income, adding that it is unwise to “spin” the tale about how people who clean rooms and carry luggage are overpaid.

“All this public relations spinning serves to do is confuse people, which in the long run just lengthens the fight,” Casey said. “We're not going to back down.”

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