Tuesday, November 02, 2004

NY Times article on lockout

Full story here.

Classic bread-and-butter issues were on the table, including wage increases, costs of health benefits, pension changes, a right-to-organize clause and the length of the contract.

But talks stalled in September when the union balked at proposed health and pension concessions and hotels refused to discuss the concerns until Local 2 dropped its quest for a two-year contract, to expire in 2006. That is when contracts will expire in nine other cities, including Boston, Chicago and New York. The unions reason that if all 10 cities can negotiate simultaneously, it will give labor the kind of bargaining chip it needs to do battle with the multinational corporations that own the nation's best hotels.

"They are attempting to nationalize the unions," said Matthew Adams, vice president of both the hotel negotiating group and the Hyatt Regency here. "It would cripple our industry and we're simply not going to stand for it."

To protest the unbudging stance of the hotel group, union workers initiated a two-week strike at four hotels on Sept. 29. Two days later, the 14 hotels retaliated with a lockout.

The mayor called last week for a 90-day cooling off period but the hotels, now using replacement workers, refused to let employees return, even though the union strike ended as planned.

"We've never seen this kind of action from the hotels," Mayor Newsom said. "It sends a terrible message to the rest of the country that there is unrest here." The mayor, saying that the hotels were "putting a gun to the head of the city," called the lockout a "huge mistake."

Michael Casey, president of Local 2, called the continued lockout "indefensible and unconscionable."

"We have said repeatedly that all items are negotiable," Mr. Casey said. "The best thing for the big hotels, the members and the city is to accept a cooling off period and end the lockout."

Union workers on the picket line last week said they were particularly unhappy with proposed wage increases, calling it "insulting."

The union is seeking an increase of 55 cents an hour for each year of a two-year contract for untipped workers and an increase of 45 cents for workers who receive tips. Management has offered an annual wage increase of 20 cents an hour per year for five years, while employees who receive tips would receive an annual raise of 5 cents an hour.

The union contends the hotels' proposal would not compensate workers for the extra contribution employers want toward medical costs.

Medical contributions for most employees, who now pay $10 per person per month, would gradually increase to $40 per person per month over five years. And the proposed change in eligibility requirements would leave 1,100 families without health benefits, the union said.

... Workers on the picket line at The Fairmont and The Mark Hopkins last week said they were all too familiar with the high cost of living in San Francisco, especially on a wage of $14 to $22 an hour. Reva James-Frye, 53, a city resident and telephone operator at the Fairmont for 15 years, earns nearly $15 an hour, or about $33,000 a year. Roughly half of her paycheck goes toward rent.

"I can barely make ends meet now," Ms. James-Frye said. "What is the point of getting a little 20-cent raise if it's going to go back in their pockets to cover health benefits."

Guillermina Tremillo, 27, a single mother of a 2-year-old, works two jobs to make ends meet, both at the famed Top of the Mark restaurant. Ms. Tremillo also shares a home with her entire family, including her parents and five sisters, all of whom pool wages. But four of her sisters work at San Francisco hotels and they too have been locked out.

"My feelings are very hurt," Ms. Tremillo said. "I do two jobs so they save one person with me. They make money with me. You give and give the most you can and they just don't care."

Mr. Adams said, however, that management wanted the employees to return to work. "A contract can be had in fairly quick order if we can resolve the issue of term," he said.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:27 PM  

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