Hotel workers march for health care

September 7, 2009 7:48:38 PM PDT
Hotel workers in San Francisco marched in support of a new contract Monday. Their old one expired August 14. It affects more than 9,000 room cleaners, dishwashers, cooks, bellmen and others at more than 62 hotels.

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The tourist and restaurant industry has been hard hit by the recession, and workers say they are facing proposals that would cut back healthcare and push workers to work harder and faster. Negotiations have just begun, and it's about health care costs. The employers pay for it now.

"They're trying to shift all of the health care costs to our members and that's unacceptable," said Mike Casey, president of Local 2.

"Our members' average income is about $35,000 a year and after taxes in San Francisco, the most expensive city in the country, we cannot afford to pay for our health care," said bartender James Taylor. "The employers are going to have to do it."

Only Starwood has put forth a proposal. Nothing yet from the other big chains like Hyatt, Hilton, and Intercontinental. Calls by ABC7 to their corporate headquarters were not returned.

These are the same workers who went on strike in 2004. That strike lasted two weeks. This time they have political support from City Hall and Sacramento.

"The hotel workers of the city are the backbone of our economy," said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. "Tourism is our No. 1 industry in San Francisco.

The union is waiting for contract proposals from the majority of San Francisco hotels. The union remains ever optimistic. They say any talk of a work stoppage is strictly premature.

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