Opinion » Guest Columns

Workers not allowed to vote on contract

by

comment

It has been two years since labor contracts expired at unionized hotels in San Francisco, including ours — the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency.

For most of that time, the leadership of Unite Here Local 2, the union representing many hotel employees, chose to engage in disruptive protests rather than good-faith negotiations. These actions, including calls for a boycott of The City by tourists and convention planners, hurt the very workers Local 2 represents, as well as the larger tourism economy in San Francisco.

Things appeared hopeful earlier this year, when Local 2 reached agreements with the other union hotels, including those run by Hilton and Starwood. Local 2’s leaders quickly put the contracts to a vote and the deals were accepted. That means workers at those hotels enjoy all the benefits of those contracts, including significant retroactive wages.

Hyatt offered Local 2 the same contract terms as every other major union hotel in San Francisco. That includes wage increases, health benefits, retirement benefits and working conditions. We willingly presented everything Local 2 asked of every union hotel in San Francisco and fully expected the union would present it to its members.

Yet, Local 2 leadership refuses to put that contract in front of its members at Hyatt. Instead, while most of his members have a new contract, Local 2 President Mike Casey continues to stage street theater demonstrations against Hyatt and leave its workers without the security of a new multiyear agreement. The most recent protest also cost The City more than 200 hours of police time, time that certainly could be better-spent.

Why would Casey deny Local 2 members working at Hyatt the back wages waiting for them under this contract? Why would he prevent them from realizing the improved health and retirement benefits? Why would he refuse to recommend the same agreement with Hyatt that he eagerly accepted from the other hotels?

Because for Casey and Local 2 leadership, this is not about existing members. It’s really about trying to impose the union’s national agenda at Hyatt’s other hotels where workers have chosen not to be represented by a union.

Casey holds his current members — and our associates — hostage as he demands that Hyatt allow Unite Here to impose representation at certain non-union hotels without allowing the associates to vote on representation in a secret-ballot election. This process, called “card check,” is open to union abuse, pressure and the potential for recriminations against workers. Our associates at these hotels repeatedly have rejected the union’s heavy-handed tactics.

We offered months ago to hold secret-ballot elections at our other hotels in the Bay Area, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, just like the secret-ballot elections Unite Here has agreed to 300 times in the past six years.

That doesn’t matter to Local 2’s leaders. Rather than allowing our associates to make their voices heard, they are preventing their members from receiving the benefits of a new contract — including significant back pay — while they try to make a name for themselves within the larger national UniteHere organization. In this country we believe that a majority should be determined by a vote and not with someone’s hand on your shoulder. Why does Unite Here not share that same value?

It’s time for Local 2’s leaders to stop holding their members hostage to an issue that has nothing to do with the Hyatt people who need and deserve a contract — one that’s on the table just waiting for Casey to present for a vote.

David Nadelman is the general manager of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco.
David Lewin is general manager of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.