S.F. mayor threatens to join picket lines
Newsom warns hotel operators to end lockout or face boycott
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:58 a.m. ET Oct. 26, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom warned hotel operators that if they don't end their lockout by Tuesday afternoon, he will join workers on the picket line, call for a boycott of the 14 hotels involved and urge other mayors to play hardball with the properties' corporate owners.
Newsom, who previously had sought to appear neutral in the work stoppage that started Sept. 29, said Monday that if the lockout goes beyond a second week, he wouldn't hesitate to come to the aid of room cleaners, cooks, bellmen and other workers.
"If the lockout does not end, the hotels know where I am going to position myself, not as an advocate, but as an exceedingly strong advocate for the people out there on the lines, in the rain, through the holidays, who are the pawns in this," Newsom said.
The mayor gave the group that represents the hotels until Tuesday afternoon to respond to his request for a 90-day cooling off period that would allow the locked-out workers to return to their jobs while talks are continuing.
If the answer is no, he said he would "do everything in my power to see to it that the city and county of San Francisco does not do business with those hotels" for the more than three years remaining in his term.
The hotels could also expect less than four-star service when it comes to getting streets cleaned, potholes fixed and graffiti removed, he said. The 14 downtown venues at the center of the conflict account for about a quarter of San Francisco's 32,500 hotel rooms, and include such luxurious properties as the Westin St. Francis, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins and The Fairmont.
"They will have sent a message that San Francisco is dispensable as a city and its employees can be used as pawns," Newsom said. "That's not what this city stands for. You chose the wrong city to take that action."
A spokeswoman for the hotel operators — the San Francisco Multi-Employer Group — said the group plans to respond to Newsom by the deadline but would not say whether they planned to call off the lockout.
"We recognize how serious the mayor is about this issue and we're considering his request," said Barbara French, the group's spokeswoman. "The interest of the hotels is to reach agreement and to reach an agreement that addresses the issues and provides what they think is the most secure avenue for a solution."
Contract talks between the two sides broke down last month over wages, employee health care costs and the main sticking point — the length of the new contract. The employers are seeking a five-year contract, but to gain leverage against the corporations that own and run many major hotels, the union wants a two-year contract that expires in 2006, when its counterparts in New York, Chicago, Boston and other major cities will renegotiate their labor pacts.