Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Hotel Lockout has ended, here is the article for the Assoiciated Press:SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- San Francisco's unionized hotel workers will go back to work after an eight-week lockout, dealing a major boost to the city's tourism industry on the eve of the busy holiday season.
Mayor Gavin Newsom on Saturday announced an agreement with the group representing the operators of 14 luxury hotels.
About 4,000 room cleaners, bellmen, cooks and other hourly wage earners who have been out of work since late September will return to their jobs beginning Tuesday as contract negotiations continue, Newsom said.
"I think they came to recognize the damage this would have long term if it had continued through the holidays," he said.
The union representing the workers began a two-week strike against four hotels on Sept. 29. The hotel operators promptly locked out all workers from the 14 hotels involved in the negotiations.
The dispute escalated on Oct. 26 when the hotel operators refused a request from Newsom to allow the employees to return to work during negotiations. Newsom then joined the union's picket lines.
On Saturday, Newsom said the poor publicity generated by the strike and the union's ability to extend health care coverage while workers remained locked out were key factors in the hotel operators' change of heart.
"They did the right thing," the mayor said. "I recognize it was a difficult decision to them."
Most employees covered by the contract that expired in August earn $9 to $15 an hour, with cooks making up to $20 an hour.
Their union, Local 2 of Unite Here, rejected the employers' last offer, which included hourly wage increases of 20 cents during each of the next five years for most workers and 5 cents for those who earn tips. The union said the raises would have been wiped out by proposed hikes in the employees' health care costs.
The length of the proposed contract is another sticking point. The union wants a two-year pact that would expire when sister unions in other major cities are set to renegotiate their labor deals, giving the union increased leverage. The hotels want a five-year deal.
The union has told the mayor's office it now is willing to discuss that issue, and Newsom said he was able to persuade hotel operators that the union was sincere.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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