San Francisco resort staff use Might Day march to name for higher working circumstances

Hotel workers marched through San Francisco Wednesday as part of the annual demonstration on May 1st or International Workers’ Day but with a specific message this year to their employers ahead of summer contract negotiations. More than 1,000 workers were expected to participate in the 3 p.m. march, including janitors who work for companies around the Bay Area.

“I do like my job, I do like customer service, I do like what I do,” said Camucha King, a private dining server who has worked at the St. Regis Hotel for almost 20 years. She is a member of UNITE HERE Local 2 union. “We are here to make a statement.”

King delivers room service orders at the hotel and says in recent years she has watched working conditions worsen as the cost of living increases for her and other hospitality workers. The march hopes to call attention to the need for better wages and access to better healthcare with a workload that is fair to them and their guests. She says that with fewer employees working, each remaining staff member has to handle more customers than before, bringing down the quality of their service.

“We are here ready to ask the companies for respect, as the company that we need to be better, better treatment, better wages, better healthcare,” she told KPIX on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of money coming in and we the workers only want our fair share of that.”

The union argues that companies have made more money after the pandemic with fewer workers on staff, even if occupancy is down or the number of visitors to San Francisco has not returned to levels seen in 2019. But representatives for the hotel industry say they are all losing money and the number of people traveling to the city and staying in town must come up to improve the situation for everyone.

“We need more people that come visit San Francisco. As less people are coming here, unfortunately, that results in less needs,” said Alex Bastian, the president and CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. “If we work together, especially during these difficult times, we will come back better and stronger than before.”

Bastien is not part of contract negotiations but his organization advocates for the vast majority of the hotels in the city, which are members along with other businesses in the hospitality sector. He points out that inflation, energy costs, and insurance premiums are affecting all hotels. 

The momentum from a more business-friendly climate in San Francisco that includes security measures and cleaner streets is a step in the right direction, Bastian said. He hopes that by continuing these positive changes, the tourism picture will improve in the months ahead and help hotels generate more business.

“When hospitality can survive and when hospitality can thrive, that’s good for each and every San Franciscan,” he said.

The march on Wednesday includes janitors who are members of SEIU Local 87, the group planned to start at 415 California Street and work their way to Union Square and on toward other parts of downtown. The demonstration is one of many across the U.S. and Canada in almost 20 cities including San Jose. Altogether, the marches are said to represent around 40,000 workers, including 10,000 in the Bay Area who are up for renegotiation this year.

“We deserve it, we work hard for the company, we deserve that respect.”

KPIX reached out to the city, the San Francisco Travel Association, and individual hotel groups for comment on the march earlier in the week, but none had responded to our request as of Wednesday afternoon.

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