protest-crap.jpgAbout 850 workers at San Francisco’s largest hotel made good on their strike vote last month and walked off the job today in a six-day protest of what they say are unfair contract proposals by management.

The Hilton Union Square workers are among about 9,000 San Francisco hotel employees who have been without new contracts since August 2009.

The Hilton workers approved a temporary strike on Sept. 15.

Housekeepers, doormen, bellhops, and kitchen and front desk staff will be honoring the strike and picketing outside the hotel 24 hours a day until 4 a.m. Tuesday, union spokeswoman Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer said.

The union alleges that proposals by hotel management would “lock workers into permanent recessionary contracts.”

The union is opposing proposed increases in employee health care contributions, the freezing of pensions, reduced staffing and greater workloads.

Hotel management said in a statement today that the average pay for a housekeeper is $60,000, while some bartenders and banquet workers make more than $100,000, and all employee health care costs are fully paid by the hotels.

Hilton General Manager Michael Dunne said the 1,902-room hotel “is operating normally and is fully operational,” using management and temporary replacement workers in place of the striking workers “with little or no disruption to guest services.”

Mehta-Neugebauer was skeptical that the full workload was being picked up.

“I don’t know if they got 850 temporary replacement workers and management to do the job,” she said.

Patricia Breslin, executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, released a statement calling the strike “a self-inflicted wound by the union to its members and the city.”

“The hotels are struggling, the city is struggling, working people are struggling, and anything that hurts the economy is bad for all of us,” Breslin said.

But union officials claim the Hilton chain has received millions in corporate tax breaks, and that the hotel industry in general has been rebounding from the economic downturn.

“So why are we helping these corporations, when they don’t even need it, technically?” Mehta asked.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!