Calif. hotel boycott grows: Korean, Mexican unionists pledge support

San Francisco and Los Angeles hotel workers’ long-running contract battles to save quality health coverage and win decent wages and reasonable workloads are intensifying, with “street heat,” boycott successes and growing international solidarity.

In San Francisco, where talks have dragged on since a weeks-long strike and lockout last fall, workers and their supporters will rally on Tuesday, May 3, at 4:15 p.m. in downtown Union Square.

Meantime, informational pickets hit the streets earlier this month at four of 14 hotels in the Multi Employer Group (MEG).

Outside the Hyatt Regency in downtown San Francisco April 12, sous-chef Patricia Abregu expressed distress at the MEG’s total lack of response to UNITE HERE Local 2’s mid-February offer of three alternative proposals. “If they came back to the table and really negotiated, the boycott would end,” Abregu said. PBX operator Cynthia Reed said most of her co-workers are “family people” who will have great difficulties if health care costs rise. The hotel management “gave themselves bonuses, but not us,” she noted.

Local 2 spokesperson Valerie Lapin said in a telephone interview that the union is intensifying its work to build the boycott of the 14 hotels.

Last week the Sierra Club announced it has cancelled reservations for about 1,000 rooms in September at the San Francisco Hilton. Sierra Club official Julia Reitan told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We work as an organization side by side with labor unions on many issues.”

Other large groups that have honored the boycott include the Organization of American Historians and the American Anthropological Association.

On April 13, Los Angeles-based UNITE HERE Local 11 held a “Banquet in the Streets” — complete with formal dress — in front of the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. Mexican union representatives participated in the action, and joined in delegations to management at several other L.A. hotels. They promised to continue their support upon their return to Mexico.

On their return home from an exciting visit to Los Angeles, Korean union representatives continued to make noise by meeting with Wilshire Grand owner Korean Air Lines and its parent company, Hanjin. Pressure from the Korean unionists is causing mounting tensions inside the company.

A recent survey by Local 11 shows that the boycott has caused over 126 events to be pulled out of the nine boycotted Los Angeles hotels, or not booked in the first place. Millions of dollars in revenue have already been lost, and as the boycott intensifies, the hotels have growing reason for concern.