More labor action at downtown hotel Wednesday

A return to negotiations last week did not prove fruitful for the ongoing hotel labor dispute, as workers plan to stage a two-day “siege” at the downtown W Hotel starting Wednesday.

A few hundred workers are expected to picket in front of the W Hotel between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, according to Unite Here Local 2, which represents more than 8,000 employees of 61 hotels in San Francisco.

The upcoming “siege,” as the union calls it, will not be a strike, per say, said Local 2 spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta. The difference is that union workers will still cover their shifts at the downtown hotel, but the union expects other members to picket in front of the business in order to provide information to customers, members and the public, she said.

Since early November, the union has staged three separate multi-day strikes at downtown hotels and says it will continue rolling labor actions until it achieves a desired contract. The cost of health care is one of the main sticking points in the strained talks.

The chief negotiator for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns the W Hotel, says the union is staging a “siege” rather than strike because its members would rather work during the difficult economy than support union leadership.

“Employees are simply unhappy with these 3-day strikes,” said Richard Curiale of Starwood. “Marching around with pots and pans and making noises – I don’t know what that’s going to accomplish.”

Mehta flatly denied the notion that Local 2 members are not supporting leadership.

“By no means is that true,” she said. “Our members are ready to fight.”

Mehta said hotel management “barely budged” during negotiations last week.
 
Meanwhile, the Hotel Council of San Francisco attacked the union for using the word “siege” to describe the two-day labor action.

“The union’s language is as medieval as its tactics,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Hotel Council of San Francisco.

Singer said Local 2 should focus attention of negotiations rather than work action.

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