Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

LGBT groups set for hotel protest over labor disputes

At least two LGBT-related groups will be protesting several San Francisco hotels Saturday, May 8, hoping to draw attention to workers’ boycotts and discourage people from staying at Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood, or InterContinental hotels during Pride.

“We are sending a message to the hotel corporations that the gay community is an important source of tourists dollars and that we support the worker boycott,” event organizer Jane Martin, who’s with Pride at Work, said in a statement. “At the same time, we are sending the message to members of our own LGBTQ community that when you come to San Francisco in June for the Pride celebration, support the workers and honor the hotel boycott.”

The protest – which will feature music, dancing, and, of course, picketing – begins at 3 p.m. at Stockton Street and Geary Boulevard (Union Square). The group One Struggle, One Fight is also involved in the demonstration.

Despite trying to negotiate with the companies, the workers are being denied affordable, high-quality healthcare, according to demonstration organizers.

Hotel workers have officially called for boycotts of the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf, Grand Hyatt, Le Meridien, The Palace, Westin St. Francis, Hilton (at O’Farrell), and the W Hotel.

“We are asking the LGBT community to support us in our struggle to get a fair contract to ensure the future of our families and the rights of LGBT members working in the hotels,” Leo Volobrynskyy, an openly gay hotel banquet server, said in the statement announcing the protest. “In the past we have negotiated language in our contract protecting same sex couples. The union has supported the rights of gay hotel workers and so we hope the LGBT community will stand with us now.”

As far as being denied healthcare, a negotiator for Starwood and a spokesman for the Hyatt said it’s the union that’s refused to come back to the bargaining table.

“We’ve contacted the union at least four to five times,” but they won’t budge on their proposal, said Richard Curiale, chief negotiator for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which manages The Palace, the W, and the Westin St. Francis but does not own them.

In response, Riddhi Mehta, press coordinator for Local 2, the union involved with the boycotts, said, “When management puts a serious proposal on the table, we’re willing to go back to the table and negotiate, but there has to be a serious effort on their part” to make the negotiations successful.

Mehta said there are two separate boycotts. One is against the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf and and Le Meridien, where workers are struggling with management over the process of forming a union. That boycott has been going on since June 2008, said Mehta.

The other boycott, which is over what workers’ share of healthcare premiums should be, is against The Palace, the Westin St. Francis, the W, the Grand Hyatt, and the Hilton. That boycott started last fall, said Mehta, who also said Local 2 is not involved in Saturday’s demonstration.

Curiale said the boycotts hurt the workers, a sentiment shared by Peter Hillan, who works for the public relations and marketing firm Fleishman-Hillard and is representing the Hyatt.

“What Local 2 leadership is doing right now is really harming their own members, and we’re urging Local 2 leadership to come back to the bargaining table,” said Hillan.

“We certainly appreciate our friends in the LGBT community voicing their opinion, but we do believe, as we’ve said consistently, the resolution to the issues are going to be done at the bargaining table,” he said.

The Hilton and InterContinental companies did not provide comment Friday afternoon.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, May 7, 2010 @ 5:11 pm PST
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