Strike One for Hotels

Every once in awhile we hear about big Lottery winners who lock their doors, close their shades and cut off their phones right after hitting the jackpot. Stories abound of distant relatives and long-lost acquaintances showing up unannounced on their doorsteps with their hands out.

In fact, there was a Cable TV program exclusively devoted to documenting the horrors faced by the newly crowned royalty who seem to run out of luck faster than a bride who passes a funeral on her way to the wedding.

We almost feel sorry for them. Take the poor Pritzker family, majority owners of the Hyatt Hotels, the third largest hotel chain in the U.S. They took home just under $1 billion on Thursday, November 5, after cashing in less than a quarter of their majority shares in the second biggest Wall St. initial public offering (IPO) this year.

It was a time of celebration. Pop open the Cristal Brut and serve the Beluga caviar, we’re on a roll now. But, sure enough, on the same day as the Pritzker’s were all smiles and slapping each other on the back, people showed up to rain on their parade.

San Francisco hotel workers announced a three-day strike of their premier downtown crown jewel, the Grand Hyatt. A Local 2, UNITE-HERE union bulletin states that “workers at the Grand Hyatt will return to work on Sunday, November 8, but have called for customers to honor an ongoing boycott at that property.”

Management was caught completely off guard. “We set up another meeting for next Thursday, which is why I’m stunned that the union pulled my employees out of the hotel,” hotel General Manager David Nadelman told the San Francisco Examiner. “We found the action by Local 2 to be irresponsible and stunning,” Nadelman lamented.

It seems the 300 workers at the hotel earning an average $30,000 annually think some of the Pritzker’s wealth should be shared, and they are not alone. Speaking in support of the strike, prominent community leader Rev. Norman Fong said that the owners of the “Grand Hyatt made a killing on the market today; how about $250,000 for the workers.”

Fong was referring to the total amount of money union negotiators say it would take to get a one-year agreement. “It would take less than 50 cents an hour per worker to get a one-year agreement,” stated union President Mike Casey, “one that keeps our crucial medical benefits intact, lifts our hourly wages by around 20 cents and avoids future strike actions like today.”

Such an agreement at the Hyatt could be the union standard that Local 2 wants to achieve as the model for the other 60 city hotels with expired contracts. Obtaining a short-term one-year contract would allow Local 2 to keep intact the best national contract in the industry as well as gain the union more bargaining leverage as more UNITE-HERE hotel contracts expire across the country in the interim.

But the hotels have their own strategy. Despite a significant recovery underway in North America that netted $110 billion profits in the last five years, the major hotels are still resisting an agreement that Local 2 estimates would add less than 2% to their payroll costs.

Unwilling to consider even modest gains, the owners believe the otherwise slumping economy gives them leverage to drive through with concessions. The hotels actually want to cut back medical benefits, lower wages and reduce staff. This uncompromising stance has drawn fire from leading political and community figures in the city.

Appearing at the Grand Hyatt, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said that “it is investors on Wall St. versus workers on the back streets of our city.”

Local 2 members are ready to make their point on the picket lines as necessary. Clearly this will not be the last strike action if the hotels continue their stalling tactics. Anticipating another tough fight reminiscent of their 2004-2006 53-day strike/lockout and victorious two-year boycott, members voted in the summer of 2008 to supplement their strike fund by assessing themselves a temporary 50% dues increase that will last through these negotiations.

With loud and enthusiastic pickets completely surrounding the hotel in the background, Casey reiterated his union’s stance that “there is an economic recovery going on in this industry and the question is whether the benefits will remain at the top or whether they will be shared with our members.”

CARL FINAMORE attended the first day’s strike picket at the Grand Hyatt, is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council and former President (ret), Air Transport Employees, Local Lodge 1781, IAMAW, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

More articles by:

Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita