Hotel labor dispute hits city coffers

A labor dispute between San Francisco’s largest hotels and their unions does not look like it will be resolved anytime soon — and in the meantime, the acrimony is costing The City several million dollars.

At least four conventions — all meetings of various union groups — moved their events to other cities, for an estimated economic impact on The City of $5.5 million, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. The cancellations come at a time when convention reservations are already down because of the recession.

The bureau has received an influx of complaints from groups who say union representatives have “harassed” them about coming to San Francisco while hotel worker union Unite Here Local 2 is in a contract dispute with San Francisco’s largest hotels, bureau CEO Joe D’Alessandro said.

Those tactics prompted the bureau to send union leadership a letter asking it to stop telling people to meet elsewhere, and threatening to rescind the union’s membership with the bureau if it doesn’t, D’Alessandro said. He said the bureau has no position on the negotiations, but driving business away from San Francisco is antithetical to the organization’s mission.

Meanwhile, negotiations are going nowhere, said Richard Curiale, chief negotiator for the Starwood H-otels group, which represents the -Westin St. Francis, Palace Hotel, St. Regis, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf and several other large hotels in San Francisco.

The two groups are at an impasse over health care costs, among others, and have not returned to the negotiating table since suspending talks in November, Curiale said. He said negotiations could restart in late spring or early summer, but admitted he was not hopeful a resolution would be found easily even then.

Unite Here Local 2 President Mike Casey said the union has no intention of stopping to ask visitors and businesses to boycott the hotels because that’s the only way the union may be able to convince them to consider taking another look at the union’s contract proposal.

He said the average hotel worker makes between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, so it’s not outrageous to ask the hotels, which he claimed are still turning a profit despite the recession, to absorb increasing health care costs.

“Our members expect that as [the hotels’] wealth grows, we’re going to get a share in that,” he said.

D’Allesandro said it’s unclear how much more economic hurt could be put on The City if the boycott continues.

“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “The average tourist doesn’t pay much attention to these things, but the meetings and conventions, we’re concerned about.”


Taking business elsewhere

At least four groups have canceled their planned conventions in San Francisco.

Organization Estimated economic impact
International Union of Bricklayers $3.12 million
Office and Professional Employees International Union $1.16 million
American Federation of Teachers $1 million
Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials $218,000

Total estimated economic impact: $5.5 million

Source: San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau

Bay Area NewsLocalSan Francisco Convention and Visitors BureauUnite Here Local 2

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