More than 8,000 San Francisco hotel workers are voting today on whether to authorize a strike, after weeks of contract negotiations with the city’s biggest hotel chains failed to produce agreements.

A strike could deal a blow to one of San Francisco’s most important economic sectors: tourism.

Between 8,000 and 8,500 workers at 31 hotels, including those owned by Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Intercontinental, are voting today, said Riddhi Mehta, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 2.

The union, which is negotiating separately with each hotel, represents about 12,000 employees in the hospitality industry in San Francisco and on the Peninsula, including room cleaners, cooks, food servers, bellmen, bartenders and dishwashers.

Workers have been without a contract since Aug. 14.

Mehta said a sticking point in the negotiations is a proposal by the hotels that workers pay more for their health care coverage.

“Many of our members are very upset … with what they’ve proposed so far,” Mehta said.
She said the average worker earns about $30,000 to $35,000 annually and can’t afford health care cost increases.

Today’s vote would not declare a strike, but simply authorize one.

Union members approved similar authorizations in 2004 and 2006.

If negotiations continue to stall, a strike could be called “soon,” Mehta said.

The polls close this evening at 6 p.m.

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