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Bellhops, Housekeepers: Don't Take Away Our Health Care

New America Media, News Report / Video, By Nick McKay // Video: Liat Krawczyk Posted: Sep 30, 2009

SF Hotel Workers Rally for Fair Contract and Health Benefits from New America Media on Vimeo.

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than 1,700 hotel workers and community members protested at a rally on Thursday in Union Square.

Ninety-two protesters were arrested while taking part in sit-ins in front and inside the Westin St. Francis and Grand Hyatt hotels, according to a statement by Local 2.

The rally was sparked by frustrations over a contract with the largest hotel companies in San Francisco: Starwood Corporation (operator of the Westin St. Francis, Palace, St. Regis, and W Hotels), Hyatt (Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency), and the Blackstone Group (Hilton), which expired Aug. 14, impacting more than 9,000 workers.

We are 1,000 strong, we mean business and our union is determined to see our benefits are defended, said Secretary Treasurer Lamoin Werlien-Jaen of Local 2, a hotel workers union serving the San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

These corporations plan to shift huge costs onto hotel workers despite a booming industry, say members of Local 2.

They are using the economy as an excuse, said staff researcher Ian Lewis amid a chanting mob as San Francisco police officers surveyed the crowd. In Boston a couple Hyatt (non-union) hotels fired 100 workers and brought in a temp agency. The workers were paid $8 an hour instead of $10 an hour.

Workers, who make less than $30,000 a year, are being laid off while those in management are retaining their jobs, Local 2 members said.

We have to pay the bills for the sake of our families, said hotel worker Roberto Martinez. We cant do that without benefits.

They wont be in jail for very long, San Francisco police officer M. Milligan said. Its all orchestrated.

The rally was the third of several actions that took place in San Francisco Sept. 7 and Aug 14. Hotel workers have held similar protests in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Anchorage and San Diego.

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