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Home » News » “Hotel Frank(enstein)” faces boycott, pickets, and community pressure on eve of sale

October 20, 2010

As buyers place their bids on two small union hotels in San Francisco, the Hotels Frank and Metropolis, community leaders and workers are increasing their calls for Wells Fargo and Provenance to sign a fair contract and reinstate two fired employees.  The Hotel Vertigo, whose workers are not represented by Local 2, is also for sale.

Last week, over a dozen religious and community leaders from San Francisco led a delegation to the management of the Hotel Frank calling on Provenance to honor the terms of the current contract, sign a new and fair contract, and reverse the terminations of two union activists.  Among the supporters who entered the Hotel Frank’s lobby to speak with management were Sister Bernie Galvin and representatives from Pride at Work, Jobs with Justice, and Single-Payer Now!

Since assuming management of the two hotels in May 2010, Provenance has ignored the terms of the contract under which the workers had been employed.  The new managers got rid of medical coverage, sick leave, vacation and holiday pay, increased the work day by half an hour with no additional pay, reduced staffing of the front desk, and increased the number of rooms to clean per day for housekeepers.  When workers protested these unilateral changes, they fired two of the most outspoken union leaders in the hotels.  Local 2 has appealed the firings to the NLRB and seeks reinstatement and back pay.

Provenance may have bitten off more than it could chew when it decided to try to push Local 2 members around.  In July, union members voted by 93% to approve actions up to and including strike and boycott.  The workers are now participating in regular actions at the hotels and have called for a customer boycott.  Marc Norton, a twelve-year bellman at the Hotel Frank who was fired, described the struggle to Carl Finamore of BeyondChron:

“Community involvement so far shows the potential of our boycott as we continue to seek public support.  The largest picket we have had up to now was on October 5, partially in response to my firing. One travel agent stopped by to speak with us very sympathetically. She always books her clients at the Hotel Frank, she told us, but that she would absolutely not do so in the future. ‘Who wants to have clients walk through a picket line?’ she exclaimed in support of us.  Of course, I realize the immediate impact of one of our larger protests was that I was fired the following day. But they think we get fired, we go away. They think we get fired, workers get demoralized. It’s not going to happen. Provenance and Wells Fargo do not know San Francisco, they do not know Local 2, they do not know the workers at their Hotel and they definitely do not know me.”

Provenance is now taking a stab at damage control, at least in the press.  Bashar Wali, president of Provenance, told the San Francisco Business Times that all of this trouble stems from “a misunderstanding.”  Wali claims that Provenance is “committed to honoring many of the provisions of the old contract.”  Wali goes on to complain about Local 2′s boycott of his hotels alongside the largest corporations Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood: “I am a dwarf in the league of giants. I look at this and say (to Local 2), ‘you are really wasting your time on me because they are a lot more valuable.’”

Provenance said themselves there’s a misunderstanding.  Let’s make things clear for them:

  • You don’t get to pick and choose which terms and conditions of a contract are most convenient for you to comply with.
  • You don’t get to fire workers just because they’re active in the union.
  • You don’t get a free pass to walk all over workers in San Francisco just because you’re a smaller hotel.

You thought Local 2 wasn’t paying attention?  You thought wrong.

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