SF Hilton Hotel workers start 6-day strike

Hundreds of workers walked off the job at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco due to a labor contract dispute.
October 13, 2010 1:13:11 PM PDT
About 850 workers walked off the job today at one of San Francisco's largest hotels. Waiters, housekeepers and other employees at the Union Square Hilton are locked in a bitter contract dispute with management. Managers as well as staff from other Hilton hotels are filling in.

"They've obviously got a lot of people here out of their tradition roles, come out from behind their desks waiting on tables and running around trying to find the food," Australian tourist Graham Stewart said.

"It's annoying coming out listening to them, but that's the era we're in. It goes with the territory of free speech," Ohio tourist John Hayden said.

Even though business at the Hilton is bouncing back from the sluggish economy, workers say the hotel's owner, the Blackstone Group, wants to freeze pensions, consolidate jobs and have workers start paying for part of their health benefits if they choose the premium health insurance plan.

"We are fighting for our future and we have to secure what we have. Some people have been working here for 30-40 years and now they're giving the swat of their pack and now they want to attack our pensions? I mean how rude," food server Robyn Shaheen said.

Each Hilton hotel operates separately and San Francisco has been struggling, the economy has been really bad here. Room rates are done, occupancy is up and what we are trying to do here is preserve jobs but we need the union leadership help to do that," Hilton Hotel spokesman Sam Singer said.

The hotel says it's basically fully operational, but it did suspend room service on Wednesday. Also, the Starbucks inside was handing-out free coffee because it appeared the replacement employees didn't know how to work the cash machine.

The guests we spoke with say it's not ruining their visit to San Francisco and they would stay here again.

As for the strike, employees have been without a contract for over a year now. Both sides recently met, but got nowhere in contract negotiations. There are no plans to meet again.


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