Why we can’t let Local 2 hold San Francisco hotels hostage

The travel industry is the lifeblood of San Francisco. Each day, it generates $22.8 million of commerce that pays the wages and tips for hotel employees, taxi drivers and restaurant wait staff. Travel and tourism generate more than $500 million annually in tax revenues for City Hall.

The City and the industry certainly succeed because of the beauty and many treasures San Francisco offers. They also succeed because of the people who work in each of the many businesses — hotels, taxi companies and restaurants. All of them celebrate San Francisco daily with our worldwide guests, representing The City, the industry and individual businesses enthusiastically and with great know-how.

The economy is recovering — but not recovered — and America’s Cup is about to showcase San Francisco to the world. The City, the industry and its hard-working employees need to present a unified front so all of us can benefit now and for years to come.

Unfortunately, the hotel union — UniteHere Local 2 — wants to hold the industry, The City and its own members hostage to a national union agenda by withholding its signatures on a contract that includes significant pay and benefits increases unless the union’s demand for a “strike-anytime clause,” is included in the contract.

The strike-anytime clause is not in any other contract of any other union in San Francisco — or in the nation to our knowledge. This is an unreasonable and unprecedented demand that could not only damage the hotel industry, but every single San Francisco retail business, restaurant and service provider to the travel industry.

If adopted, the union can strike or call a boycott anywhere and anytime, threatening the health of San Francisco’s tourism industry, our leading economic engine. Should one hotel sign a contract with such a clause, Local 2 will likely demand the same clause from all travel-industry employers, jeopardizing the interests of its own membership who want job stability, and putting at risk all the local businesses and the San Francisco economy. If other unions were to adopt this clause, San Francisco would be in constant chaos.

The actions by Local 2 leadership do not reflect the desires of Local 2 membership, many of whom stayed off the recent strike lines. In fact, a UniteHere strike at a Los Angeles hotel was canceled because its members showed up for work, voting with their feet against their leadership.

A strike-anytime clause will have a much wider negative impact on San Francisco’s economy than the two Hyatt hotels they have targeted. For every $1 a tourist spends, about 30 cents goes to a hotel. The 70 cents spent at restaurants, for transportation and for entertainment doesn’t get spent unless the tourist has a place to stay.

Should the strike-anytime clause be part of any hospitality contract, the stability of San Francisco’s tourism industry will vanish, leaving San Francisco vulnerable to constant labor strife and continued economic instability.

Lisa Kershner is executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. Linda Mjellem is executive director of USBID. John Lazar is president of the Luxor Cab Company. Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president and Ken Cleaveland is director of government and public affairs of BOMA.

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