Sit-in for a fair contract in S.F.

By Kristin Lubbert

SAN FRANCISCO--More than 1,000 hotel workers and their supporters rallied September 24, and over 100 were arrested while participating in a nonviolent sit-in, as part of a campaign for a fair contract at hotels in downtown San Francisco.

Workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 2, are negotiating a new citywide contract that affects about 9,000 workers and 62 hotels--32 of them San Francisco's largest and most luxurious hotels. Despite the fact that the hotels remain profitable, the owners are trying to use the failing economy as an excuse to demand cuts in workers' health care benefits and increased workloads.

"We've sacrificed increases in our wages and pensions for affordable quality health care," said Francisca Ramos, a linen room attendant at the St. Francis. "We're not going to give all that up so hotels companies can continue making profit at our expense."

There is a great deal of community support for hotel workers. The local LGBT rights coalition, One Struggle One Fight (OSOF), showed up to the protest in force. "We are here to show our solidarity with hotel workers," said Lauren Sage of OSOF. "This solidarity allows all of us to move progressively forward and win rights for all of us."

Edwin Escobar of Young Workers United, which collaborates with UNITE HERE, said, "They haven't paid my brother his vacation or overtime pay, and his health care is hardly within reach. No one wants to strike, but sometimes we have to in order to get what we deserve."

The action sent a clear message to the hotel owners that the workers are fed up and willing to take action. It remains unclear if a strike lies ahead. But bold actions like this will forge the way to better working conditions for all of us.