For more than a year, Mike Casey, the leader of UNITE HERE Local 2, the labor union representing hotel workers in San Francisco, has told the public and elected officials that its union is not trying to hurt The City’s vital tourism and hospitality industry, but that its action against hotels are “surgical strikes” aimed at just a handful of hotels with which it has contractual labor issues.
Unfortunately, Casey’s actions undermine his claim as it is now clearly apparent that he and the union have listed a total of 35 major San Francisco hotels on their Workers Rising website as either to be boycotted or in danger of a dispute.
Given the “Scarlet Letter” list on the Workers Rising website, it makes it difficult for major conventions to attempt to book San Francisco because UNITE HERE has tagged them as unacceptable to their union.
Actions speak louder than words. And in the case of Local 2, their actions are in direct contradiction to what they have told the public and San Francisco elected officials. In short, they are working aggressively to turn business away from San Francisco and send it to other cities. To date, Casey has cost San Francisco more than $10 million in recorded lost business — the impact of the loss of unrecorded millions of future affected contracts is yet to be seen.
The irony of Local 2’s efforts is that instead of harming the hotel chains they rally against in contract negotiations, the conventions they turn away from San Francisco simply go to the same hotel chains in a different city. Local 2 is helping the same hotel chains in San Jose, San Diego and other cities throughout the United States get additional business and tax revenues. Yet, their actions in S.F. are harming their own members and our residents — now and in the future — as we see the promise of future conventions coming to San Francisco deteriorate. While the hotels of San Francisco have lowered rates to attract business to keep their employees working, San Francisco, the Hotel Tax Fund and The City’s income earned from visitors continue to suffer.
The disruptive actions of Local 2’s leader Casey are directly hurting the health care programs, the arts programs and other programs that The City supports. Next year, when San Francisco is looking for money, one of the reasons funding will be short is because Casey’s actions have taken money that rightly should have gone to San Francisco and directed it to other cities.
Right now, Local 2’s ever-expanding boycott and “don’t patronize” list sends a negative signal to the meeting and convention planners that they should look to other cities to book their business. Should Local 2’s destructive efforts continue to proceed, it will have a deepening impact on San Francisco’s economic future.
The current union actions and endless threats of boycotts are just as onerous to the health of our No. 1 tourism industry as an increased hotel tax, Measure “J”, that the unions have placed on November’s ballot.
It’s time to stop the destructive tactics that harm the hospitality industry, The City’s ability to generate tax revenues and San Francisco’s economic future. Fortunately, there are still major conventions and meeting planners who are willing to overlook the distraction of propaganda from Local 2 and continue to come to S.F., but the union’s tactics are harmful to all of us in San Francisco and their impact will be felt for years to come.
Patricia Breslin is executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.