Hotel workers push for new contract

San Francisco police cited more than 100 people during a demonstration held outside the Hilton Hotel.

January 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
San Francisco police cited more than 100 people Tuesday night during a huge demonstration by hotel workers. The workers have been staging protests since August when their contract with the hotels expired.

This time, workers and their supporters marched through Union Square during rush hour and ended up at the Hilton Hotel.

Union hotel workers did their best to make as much noise as they could as they converged in front of the Hilton on O'Farrell Street, asking people to boycott the hotel.

Roughly 9,000 hotel workers in San Francisco have been working without a contract since August. Negotiations have been off and on since then. The hotels want certain concessions which the union says are unacceptable. Workers hope hitting the hotel's bottom line will help them get what they want.

"Believe me, it costs them more money with what's going on right now than settling with us because if they settle with us, believe me that's very cheap," said Yohanes Admokom, a Westin bartender.

The Hilton is the fifth hotel union workers have been calling for a boycott. Previous targets include the Grand Hyatt, The Palace, the Westing St. Francis and the W.

It is unclear how effective the boycotts have been, but the hotels insist all of the efforts put forth by the union so far, have been pointless.

"The protests really don't have an impact at all, most of these economies are only half-full. The economy is bad, rates are down and this is really all-hat, no cattle. It's a big protest with no impact," said Sam Singer, the Hotel Council of San Francisco spokesman.

But union organizers are convinced the boycotts are working. They claim several organizations have canceled events. For many, this is a fight over health care.

"They want our members to pay $200 a month for health care over a period of three years, for health care and they can't afford that. They make $30,000 a year and they cannot afford that," said Riddhi Mehta, from Unite Here! Local 2.

It's an issue many were willing to get arrested over.

Organizers say they'll continue with these acts of civil disobedience as long as they are working without a contract, and it is only a matter of time until they target the next hotel.