Labor widens and radicalizes its SF hotel fight

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By Steven T. Jones

After a three-week break in their ever-escalating labor battle with the owners of San Francisco’s biggest hotels, Unite-Here Local 2 workers and their supporters plan to hit hard tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 5) with a rally featuring national labor leaders, an expansion of the union’s hotel boycott, and civil disobedience.

The action begins at 4 p.m. at 750 Market Street, in the plaza between between 3rd and 4th streets, forming into a march to O’Farrell Street outside the Hilton, which will be the latest hotel to be added to the union’s boycott list. The others are Le Meridien, Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf, Grand Hyatt, Westin St. Francis, Palace Hotel, and the W Hotel.

The big national hotel chains have claimed the recession and high health care costs are forcing them to reject union demands for a 1.5 percent increase in worker pay, but the union calls that ridiculous, noting that Starwood Hotels and Resorts – which owns more than half the hotels on the boycott list – made $180 million in profit in the first three quarters of 2009 and saw their stock price increase 66 percent.

Supporting the union tomorrow will be local progressive groups as well as Unite-Here’s national president John Wilhelm and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, both of whom will speak at the rally. In addition, organizers say about 100 workers will engage in civil disobedience and face arrest.