A strike by Hilton San Diego Bayfront workers came to an abrupt end late Wednesday, hours after it began and just before the first full day of Comic-Con was due to begin on Thursday.
Unite Here Local 30, which represents the convention hotel’s workers, confirmed that they instructed workers to quit after the Hilton hotel presented to the union what they considered a fair proposal. Unite Here said they would not release details of the agreement until workers have the opportunity to vote on the new agreement.
Rick Bates, the union̵[ads1]7;s policy director, said he believes communication between Mayor Todd Gloria and Hilton officials played a role in helping reach a preliminary agreement.
The draw started early Wednesday morning after day-long talks stopped on Tuesday night when dealers from both sides were unable to reach an agreement on wages and other work-related issues. The hotel’s 600 unionized workers, who have been without a contract since November, signaled last Friday that they were willing to resign when they voted overwhelmingly to authorize union leaders to call for a strike if no progress was made in the negotiations.
Leaders of Unite Here, which represents more than 6,000 hotel, gaming and food service workers across the county, said they ended up in a dead end late Tuesday when Hilton dealers rejected their latest proposal for a $ 4-hour wage increase over a two-year period.
“We were prepared to go to this morning, but they said, ‘We’re done,’ and they left,” said Unite Here President Brigette Browning Wednesday morning as workers, dressed in red union T-shirts and holding picket signs, marched nearby. at the hotel’s upper and lower entrances.
“No contract, no peace,” they sang in English and Spanish while union leaders urged them to continue with megaphones.
The management of the hotel had on Wednesday morning refused to comment on the strike or how they planned to staff the sold-out hotel during San Diego’s largest single convention, which draws around 135,000 participants. Inside the hotel lobby, it appeared to be business as usual, although a sign warned guests that “Bell service is currently unavailable.” And the internal Starbucks, usually staffed by hotel workers, was closed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
In an email from Hilton on Wednesday, the hotel said: “We continue to welcome guests and have contingency plans in place to ensure operations are as smooth as possible.” It added, “We are confident that the hotel and the union will reach a fair agreement that is beneficial to both our valued team members and our hotel.”
However, no new negotiation meetings are planned, union leaders said. Browning said she believes the hotel is currently staffed by temporary staff and a few non-unionized Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines employees.
The mayor’s commitment to Hilton was a factor in reaching a preliminary agreement today.
The decision to strike, Unite Here said, depended on two key issues – pay and the hotel’s current policy of not having housekeepers clean rooms daily, a practice that became common in the industry during the pandemic. Rooms at the Hilton are instead cleaned when guests check out unless they specifically request more frequent cleaning. Unite Here estimates that the policy change has on average reduced space guard hours by 30 per cent.
“We have been negotiating for several months,” Bates told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday night after the strike decision was made. “We are demanding $ 4 (hour) increases (over two years), and the company offered $ 2.50 and no housekeeping. We can not let spacekeepers continue to suffer in a billion-dollar industry.”
Bates said Hilton’s latest offer of an increase of $ 2.50 an hour should be over an 18-month period, but it was conditional on the union agreeing to drop the requirement for daily room cleaning unless guests choose to sign up. out.
The hotel had originally proposed in June an hourly increase of $ 1.50 over three years, but on Tuesday night it had changed the contract period to 18 months, Bates said. During the talks on Tuesday, the union came down from the original demand of $ 7 extra per hour over two years.
The union represents about 450 full-time employees at Hilton Bayfront and another 150 shift workers.
While the workers at the convention hotel earn considerably more than the minimum wage, they are still struggling to make ends meet in a county where housing costs are particularly high. Hourly wages for Hilton non-tip staff – including housekeepers, stewards, chefs and receptionists – range from $ 19.30 to $ 20.65.
Imelda Izazaga, 55, has worked at the Hilton Bayfront since 2010, earning $ 19.65 an hour working in the laundry department. She says she’s lucky to have a husband – who is also employed at the Hilton – to help cover their $ 2,100 monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment they share with their 33-year-old son.
“Right now it’s too difficult for us because the cost of living in California is very high,” she said, taking a break from the strike on Wednesday morning. “Your salary is not even enough. One job should be enough. I worry about the strike, but we must sacrifice; if we do not do this, the company will benefit from it. “
Jason Orta, a chef at Hilton for the past 12 years, is no stranger to work unrest. Almost 20 years ago, he joined other grocery workers in a strike in Southern California that lasted more than four months.
“It was difficult then with small children,” said Orta, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in La Mesa with her three children, ranging in age from 17 to 21. “But we ended up getting what we wanted. wins on these things, but that’s what it always seems to be about – health care and money. “
Comic-Con organizers acknowledged on Wednesday that the timing of the strike had the potential to make their first full, personal rally after a two-year hiatus so much more challenging.
“We are very disappointed to hear that an agreement between Hilton San Diego Bayfront and Unite Here Local 30 could not be reached,” said Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer. “It was our sincere hope that negotiations would result in a solution that would be satisfactory to all stakeholders. We are working with a number of units on possible emergency preparedness, but the timing of this case certainly creates its own challenges. “
Not only is the hotel sold out, but the Indigo Ballroom is a venue for several convention panels throughout the pop culture collection, which begins on Thursday. Glanzer said that Comic-Con staffs the rooms of the hotels in the area where there are conference panels.
The rash did not appear to affect Comic-Con activity around the Hilton Bayfront on Wednesday afternoon. Crews kept busy setting up an outdoor screen for the ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary” on the northwest end of the hotel property, and across the sidewalk put the finishing touches on an installation covered in fake ivy for FX Networks.
Some guests who arrived at the hotel on Wednesday told the Union-Tribune that they did not experience any delays at check-in and said that the hotel staff did not notify them of potential disruptions to the guest services during their stay.
Farhad Mahmoudi, a sales consultant from Encinitas who is staying at the Hilton this weekend, supports the striking workers.
“I think it’s pretty smart of them to do that at a time when they’re going to get a lot of exposure and maximum impact,” he said.
Gerry Vogler, who had flown in from Philadelphia earlier this week to attend Con and stayed at the hotel for eight nights, was far less likeable. First, he was told that he had to ask for cleaning 24 hours in advance if he wanted the room clean. It turned out, however, that it was a policy that was already in place regardless of the strike.
“I feel with the job situation as it is, if you are not happy with your job, you will find other opportunities,” said Vogler. “And a lot of people spend a lot of money on this convention and plan a year in advance, and disrupting it to get a better contract is ruthless.”
With little progress in the negotiations in recent months, Unite Here tried to increase the pressure on Hilton last week when it held a press conference outside San Diego City Hall. Among those who spoke was Gloria, along with two city council members, who gave their support to the hotel workers. On Wednesday, a number of elected leaders joined the strikes, including at least three San Diego city councilors, a county councilor and the mayor of National City, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.
The last hotel strike in San Diego was in the fall of 2018 when workers at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp left work for 35 days. The strike ended after a new contract was negotiated, which gave domestic workers a pay rise of 40 percent over four years.