New year, same struggle for hotel workers

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By Caitlin Donohue

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Hotel workers and their allies block Geary St. traffic last night to announce their boycott of the SF Hilton. Photo by Erik Anderson

Over 1,400 union members and community supporters assembled downtown last night to protest management’s role in contract negotiations with the hotel workers’ union, Unite Here! Local 2. Police arrested 140 activists for their peaceful protest, which blocked traffic on Geary for hours in the blocks surrounding the Hilton San Francisco. The hotel was targeted to announce its addition to a boycott list that now includes seven businesses. Shouts of “when they say ‘cut back,’ we say ‘fight back’!” sounded through the city streets as the sign-toting protesters marched a picket line in front the hotel, symbolic of a struggle whose implications in the labor movement reach well beyond the 9,000 San Franciscan members of Local 2.

Before the rally began, Local 2 member Ringo Mak saw the show of support encouraging. “This shows San Francisco is still a union town!” he said. Mak, a 20-year waiter at the Hilton and member of his union’s bargaining team, was heartened by the numbers turned out by supporters- especially for what it meant in terms of the fight hotel workers had ahead of them. “This is our first action of 2010,” he said, “and it’s a great way to show the Hilton that we’re not giving up.”