152 workers arrested, cited, released for protesting 

Police arrested, cited and released 152 workers this evening for protesting in the street in front of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco hotel on Union Square, a police spokesman said.

Officer Samson Chan said the workers were cited for disobeying a lawful order by a police officer and for jaywalking after they sat in the street in front of the hotel, located at 345 Stockton St., and refused to move when told to disperse.

Police gave the protesters ample time to leave, but officers began making arrests at about 6 p.m. when the workers remained in the street blocking traffic, Chan said.

A spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 2, the union representing the workers, said the protesters were engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience and were prepared to be arrested in order to send a strong message to the Hyatt Corp.

Contract negotiations between the workers and the Chicago-based company have been stalled since 2009.

"We want to signal to Hyatt Corp. that we're very serious and we're not going to go away," union spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer said. "We're willing to make some sacrifices."

More than 1,000 hotel workers marched from the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street to the Grand Hyatt San Francisco to protest the stalled contract negotiations, Mehta-Neugebauer said.

She said the hotel giant is asking its low-wage earners to contribute more to their health care costs while their pay stays the same, even though the company is projected to enjoy double-digit increases in revenue.

"The Hyatt Corp. continues to report record profits," she said. "When Hyatt is continuing to grow, it is unfair for them to ask workers to make concessions."

Hotel Council of San Francisco spokesman Sam Singer, of Singer Associates, said the requests were due to skyrocketing health care expenses.

"Health care costs have risen by 300 percent in the past 10 years," he said. "We are asking them to pay some portion of their health care costs to cover that."

Contract negotiations began in August 2009 but have stalled, resulting in two strikes in the past nine months: one at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco in November 2009, and the other at the Embarcadero Center's Hyatt Regency San Francisco in June.

"There has been no progress in terms of negotiations," Mehta-Neugebauer said. "Workers are at a crisis point."

Today's rally began at 4:15 p.m. and temporarily closed down part of Mason Street.

Officer Chan said the 300 block of Stockton Street was also closed off until the arrested protesters were cleared out at about 7 p.m. They were taken to the Tenderloin Station for processing. 

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