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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

UNITE HERE Beats San Francisco Hotel Lockout

Posted to the IUF website 30-Nov-2004

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The 38-day lockout of 4,300 union hotel workers at San Francisco's leading luxury hotels ended on November 23 when UNITE HERE members returned to work under the terms of a a 60-day "cooling off" period during which the union has agreed not to strike and the employers are to refrain from locking out workers. The conflict began on September 29 when the union struck four major hotels over the employers' continued refusal to negotiate a new city-wide collective agreement. The hotels responded with a lockout; employers at ten additional hotels declared an indefinite lockout of union employees two days later. Employers have been unwilling to drop their demands for increased workloads and a sharp increase in employee contributions to health insurance and pensions. The employers are also resisting the union's demand for a two-year contract which would expire in 2006, giving them a common expiration date with hotels in 10 major US cities and thus increasing national bargaining power with the chains that now dominate the sector (for more background click here).

The hotels have dismissed the workers they recruited to cross union picket lines and negotiations are scheduled to resume again shortly.

With 5 of the hotels involved in the lockout belonging to the InterContinental group of properties or brands, international union support action has focused on the InterContinental Group. IUF members internationally demonstrated at company properties, protested the company's anti-union stance in messages to corporate headquarters, arranged meetings with local InterContinental managements and supported boycott actions, including pressure on travel agencies. International pressure and declining bookings helped split the employers and pressure the San Francisco city government to intervene and press for a return to work and a resumption of negotiations. Union mobilization also succeeded in defeating employer moves to cut off worker health benefits during the lockout.

The issues at the heart of the conflict in San Francisco - and in Los Angeles and Washington DC, where union members have voted to take strike action if necessary in support of similar demands - nevertheless remain unresolved. Through the IUF, hotel unions internationally are developing and coordinating international support to assist the ongoing US campaign.