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(en) US, California, The dawn* #4 - Hotel Workers Begin Two Week Strike in San Francisco by F.K. Witt

From <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(Erik egh-A-the-dawn.org)
Date Sat, 16 Oct 2004 09:20:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Fourteen hundred workers are on strike in San Francisco,
and another 2,600 have been locked out of their jobs at
fourteen high price hotels. The striking and locked-out
workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 2, fighting against
an increase in their payments for health care. The strike
comes at the beginning of the San Francisco fall tourist
season and with luck may hit the bosses hard.

UNITE HERE members stuck four hotels in San Francisco on
the 29th. In two days the employers had locked out the
rest of San Francisco's union hotel workforce. Members of
the union had voted on the 13th and 14th of September in
Los Angeles (Local 11), Washington, D.C. (Local 25) and
San Francisco (Local 2), to authorize union leaders to
call a strike if it proves necessary. The vote in favor
of authorizing a strike was overwhelming in all areas:
in San Francisco more than 97 percent of votes cast were
in favor, and 77 percent of eligible members voted.

UNITE HERE is the awkwardly named result of a merger of
the former Union of Needletrades, Textiles and Industrial
Employees (UNITE), and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant
Employees (HERE), two separate unions. It is the bargaining
agent for 13,000 hotel workers in the areas which voted
to strike.

The union faces a group of bosses that have learned to
work together against their employees. The success of the
employers in the Southern California grocery workers strike
has emboldened the employers. Although the bosses have
long complained about sympathy strikes and other tactics
of solidarity, apparently it suits them well. Hotels in Los
Angeles have a similar agreement to the one that locked out
workers in San Francisco. Mark Huntely, president of a San
Francisco employer's organization, was quoted echoing the
old union slogan ("an injury to one is an injury to all"),
"a strike against one of our hotels is a strike against
all of our hotels."

The hotels are insistent on locking workers into a longer,
five-year contract. Also at issue is what the grocery
workers faced, and what many of us are facing or will
be facing in the near future: the cutbacks of health
and pension benefits. This new tactic of the bosses has
proven potent: they save very real money without cutting
wages. After all, they are just asking employees to pay
their fair share.

The cost of health insurance is rising, and employers would
love to pass the cost on completely to the workers, who can
least afford it. The rising cost of health care benefits
not only the health care companies, but employers who buy
health care, who are more than happy to use these rising
costs as a lever to cut wages. After all, the numbers are
easy enough to fudge, to make it look as though costs have
risen more than they really have. If companies were truly
concerned about the rising cost of health care, they would
be looking into ways to reduce or eliminate it; as it is,
the owners would rather buy some stock in pharmaceuticals.

Although the hotel industry practices its own form of
solidarity, it knows what a dangerous thing it can be on
the other side. So it is bitterly opposed to one of UNITE
HERE's primary demands: contracts with simultaneous ending
dates. The bosses are desperate to divide union members,
and it may in fact be possible for them to do so.

The precedent for union solidarity is not good. On 16
September, the first day following the expiration of
a contract between UNITE HERE and the Wilshire Grand
Hotel in Los Angeles, 17 laundry workers were greeted
with a friendly sign. "Attention laundry employees Local
52 UNITE HERE bargaining unit members: You are hereby
LOCKED OUT until further notice. Do not attempt to enter
the facilities." It seems that the hotel owners these days
know the value of solidarity more than the union. The union
filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board,
an action sure to bear fruit before the second coming.

We can only hope that the union rank and file will get
involved in this strike in a way that they were not in
the Los Angeles grocery strike, in spite of the fact that
the union would prefer complacency from them. Another
"successful" strike like the one in L.A. would give
industry the idea that there is a simple formula to
handling striking workers. Allow a strike to occur, lock
out all the union workers, hire replacements, watch the
union leadership roll over and call off pickets while the
rank and file struggle to feed their families, and wait
it out. If the rank and file don't stage a strong strike,
they're certain to be S.O.L.

The following hotels are currently struck or locked out
and being picketed. If you are in the area and have some
time to spare, please join the picket lines. Argent Hotel
(50 Third Street near Market); Crowne Plaza Union Square
(Sutter and Powell); Fairmont Hotel (California and Mason);
Four Seasons (757 Market between 3rd and 4th Sts); Grand
Hyatt (345 Stockton at Sutter); Hilton (333 O'Farrell at
Mason); Holiday Inn Civic Center (50 Eighth St at Market);
Holiday Inn Express at Fish Wharf (550 Northpoint); Holiday
Inn at Fish Wharf (1300 Columbus); Hyatt Regency (Market
at Embarcadero); Mark Hopkins (California and Mason);
Omni San Francisco (500 California); Sheraton Palace
(Market and New Montgomery); St. Francis (Powell and Geary)

>From The Dawn, October 2004

* [Ed. note: The Dawn is an anarcho-communist journal]

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