Workers at The City’s largest hotel have ended a dispute with management over health care, an agreement that could bode well for San Francisco’s vital tourist industry as large events and projects approach.
The 750 doormen, room cleaners, cooks and other workers at the 1,900-room Hilton San Francisco Union Square, represented by UNITE HERE Local 2, and Hilton management announced the agreement Monday.
“Working-class people who can take care of themselves, take care of their families and have stability in the workplace” only aid The City’s ability to function, Mayor Ed Lee said at a news conference announcing the settlement.
Under the contract, workers — who earn about $20 an hour on average — will receive a 4 percent annual compensation increase, which can be divided between direct wages, pension or health care benefits as needed.
They will also continue to enjoy health care fully paid for by the company — or $10-a-month health care if they want their families covered. And if they work more than 10 years, they enjoy those benefits for life.
The deal does not affect workers’ situations at other San Francisco hotels, including the other two Hiltons on Kearny Street and at Fisherman’s Wharf, neither of which is directly managed by Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Union officials said they hope the Hilton agreement sets a precedent and eases ongoing labor negotiations at other hotel chains such as Hyatt, where workers have long been at odds with management.
“I believe that this is going to start the ball rolling with the overwhelming number of hotel companies in The City,” said Mike Casey, UNITE HERE Local 2’s president.
Organizing efforts and negotiations are ongoing at hotels owned by the other titans of the hotel industry, including the Starwood-owned Le Méridien and The City’s Marriott locations, Casey said.
Tourism is San Francisco’s top industry, and The City’s hotels are one of the area’s top employers. In 2007-08, tourists spent $1.5 billion on hotel room reservations alone — 14 percent of which, or $210 million, went directly into The City’s treasury.
Harmony at The City’s hotels is important for Lee, who mentioned welcoming tourists to the Hilton this summer for the America’s Cup yacht races, and who wants to keep labor and business relations smooth as he mounts an effort to build a new waterfront arena for the Warriors. A functional hotel industry will also be crucial as Lee prepares San Francisco to bid on hosting a Super Bowl.
About 9,000 people work in San Francisco hotels, according to Local 2’s Casey, of which “89 percent” are union workers. That’s a much higher percentage than in other counties; in San Mateo County, about 30 percent of workers are unionized, Casey said.