Hotel union disrupting business in San Francisco, Chicago

SAN FRANCISCO A union representing thousands of hotel workers in San Francisco is attempting to dissuade businesses from holding events at several hotels in the city, while in Chicago an unannounced job action has hoteliers worried about a widespread strike.

The Hotel Council of San Francisco is criticizing Unite Here Local 2’s continued attempts to discourage business from coming to San Francisco. Union leaders have issued calls for convention planners to boycott the city, asking them to cancel large events and to avoid planning future events. Because major conventions need to plan a year or more in advance—and sometimes alternate locations between East and West coasts—such a boycott could cost San Francisco three or four years’ worth of convention business, the hotel group says.

According to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, 10 conventions and meetings have either canceled or opted not to come to San Francisco this year, citing labor issues as one of the reasons. The cancelled events are expected to cost the city more than US$8 million in lost revenue.

The union, which has been working without a contract since August 2009, is planning protests today at San Francisco Hyatt Regency and Burlingame Regency Hotel.

In Chicago, about 200 workers at the downtown Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers walked off the job on Monday for about two hours, an unannounced job action by Unite Here Local 1 that could be another step toward a widespread strike. Unite Here workers at more than a dozen Chicago hotels, including most of the city’s Starwood-, Hyatt- and Hilton-affiliated properties, have already voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

Monday’s incident was the second work stoppage by union workers in Chicago this year, following a similar incident at Hyatt Regency Chicago back in May. Like in San Francisco, Chicago’s Unite Here workers have been without a contract for more than a year.