on-strike.jpgHotel and business leaders came together at a news conference Thursday to criticize the actions of about 850 workers at San Francisco’s largest hotel who walked off the job Wednesday.

The Hilton Union Square workers, who are engaged in a six-day protest of what they say are unfair contract proposals by management, are among roughly 9,000 city hotel employees without new contracts since August 2009.

Hilton General Manager Michael Dunne denounced the strike, citing the city’s economic dependence on tourism as a reason for those on strike to return to work.

Tourism and hospitality in San Francisco produced $7.8 billion in business and provided $426 million in taxes last year, and sustained 20,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirectly, Dunne said.

“It’s time that Local 2 stopped picketing and boycotting and become a responsible member of our community,” Dunne said in a statement. “The first step they can take is to negotiate a new contract.”

The hotel management is offering the union a contract including pay hikes and increases it says are “sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of the health care fund, with no employee contributions.”

The union alleges that proposals by hotel management would “lock workers into permanent recessionary contracts,” and is opposing proposed increases in employee health care contributions, pension freezes, reduced staffing, and greater workloads.

Dunne criticized the local chapter of the union and noted that chapters in Houston, San Diego, and Minneapolis negotiated new contracts this year.

“The question in San Francisco is what is wrong with Local 2 and why do they insist on fighting instead of negotiating a new contract?” Dunne asked.

In June, the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau expelled the union and its president from the 1,700-member bureau on the grounds that it had repeatedly intimidated conventions and travelers as part of its labor negotiation strategy.

“Local 2 is attempting to drive business away from San Francisco at a time when the city desperately needs visitors and the money and jobs tourism brings,” said Patricia Breslin, executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, who joined Dunne on Thursday.

Union spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer said the Hilton chain has received millions in corporate tax breaks, and that, as a whole, the hotel industry has been rebounding from the economic downturn.

In Honolulu Thursday morning, Hilton workers at the chain’s largest hotel walked off the job on a similar five-day strike, citing outrage over $180 million in bailout funds while workers are coping with reduced hours, staff cuts, and high injury rates.

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