Hotel workers negotiations continue

Negotiations between 13 of The City’s hotels and the union representing 4,300 of their employees are scheduled to continue today as the two sides attempt to hammer out a labor agreement.

The hotel workers — including housekeepers, kitchen workers, food servers and bell staff — last month voted to authorize a strike if a contract agreement is not reached.

Two years ago, Unite Here! Local 2 conducted a two-week strike. The hotels, forming the San Francisco Multi Employer Group, locked out more than 4,000 workers. The standoff ended more than six weeks later after Mayor Gavin Newsom intervened, but a revised contract was never reached.

“We’re focusing on getting a contract,” said Mike Casey, president of Local 2. “We’re hopeful and determined.”

Noah Griffin, a spokesman for the San Francisco Multi Employer Group, said he’s also hopeful and optimistic that a deal can be worked out.

“For a long time we were not talking at all,” Griffin said.

Casey said spending Labor Day working to negotiate a contract is the best way to spendthe holiday.

“It’s what we should be doing,” Casey said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Labor Day.”

Originally, the union and the hotels aimed to have a contract in place by today. They have been meeting daily in an effort to make that possible.

The complexity of a contract is one reason for the protracted negotiations, Casey said.

Some of the issues at stake include: health care benefits, wages, pensions, job security, workload reductions and organizing rights.

Casey said there are scores of sticking points, with matters up for discussion today including health care, pensions, salaries and workloads.

The hotel group has proposed a two-tiered health care package designed to reduce benefits for newer employees. The union has rejected the plan.

Casey Sunday pledged to remain at the bargaining table until there’s a contract or “things break down.” Casey said he wouldn’t forecast whether there might be a strike in the future.

Since tourism is The City’s No. 1 industry, a strike would impact the local economy on several levels. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that $30 million in convention-related revenue has been lost since 2004 due to ongoing hotel labor struggles.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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