Cal Football Team Breaks Boycott, Stays at Claremont

Friday July 04, 2003

Five months after pledging to boycott the Claremont Resort and Spa the UC Berkeley football team has signed up for a week-long stay at the hotel in August. 

The team had promised to stay away from the hotel to show support for the hotel workers, who have been locked in a bitter, two-year contract dispute with the Claremont. The team’s room reservations sparked outrage among union officials, student activists and clergy who have sided with clerks, dishwashers and waiters pushing for better wages and health care benefits. 

Athletic department spokesperson Bob Rose said the football team is staying at the Claremont for one week during a three-week, pre-season training camp in August. He could not confirm the dates of the stay, but said he thought it will cover the week of Aug. 14 to 21. Rose said he did not know the cost of the week-long booking. 

Claire Darby, boycott coordinator for Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 2850, which represents about 300 workers at the Claremont, said the football team booked rooms under a different name in an attempt to avoid scrutiny. 

Rose said he knew of no such ruse, but Claremont spokesperson Anne Appel could not find any listing for the team in the hotel’s books.  

The team will spend two weeks of its training camp at UC Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Campus on Warring Street, Rose said, but the athletic department was unable to book the space for the entire three-week camp. The Claremont, he said, was the only available local hotel that could accommodate the team, and the meeting space it needs, during the final week of camp. 

The only other option—moving the entire training camp off-campus and taking freshmen away from academic orientation sessions—was unacceptable, Rose said. 

“In the real world, there are times when your intent is to do what’s right—[but] you need also to do what’s right for your student-athletes,” he said. “That’s always our number one priority—student-athletes.” 

“To me, it sounds like another excuse,” said Liana Molina, interfaith organizer for the Oakland-based East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. 

The team is maintaining a partial boycott of the hotel. Before this year, Cal football stayed at the Claremont the night before home games, mirroring the practice of many big-time football programs around the country. Rose said the team will take its business elsewhere this year, staying at the Doubletree Hotel at the Berkeley Marina. 

Students applauded the decision to pull out of the season-long contract, but said the one-week stay was unacceptable. 

“I think it’s a betrayal,” said graduate student Mo Kashmiri. “Obviously, the students were really pissed about this.” 

Darby, the boycott organizer, said UC Berkeley’s chancellor’s office, Boalt Hall School of Law and School of Social Welfare have joined in the boycott, while the Haas School of Business has resisted. The Yoga Journal, California State Bar Association and high-tech powerhouse Intel have also pulled out of the Claremont, she said. 

HERE vice president Wei-Ling Huber said the union pulled out of contract talks in May when the Claremont wouldn’t budge on health care and wages. The union is asking for full coverage of health care costs and a 50-cent increase per hour in wages, Huber said. The hotel, she said, is offering to cover only part of escalating health care costs and to provide a 25-cent raise per hour. 

Appel, in a written statement, said the Claremont had offered a 19 percent hike in health and welfare contributions over three years in its latest bid to finalize a contract. 

HERE is also attempting to unionize about 100 non-union spa employees at the hotel —massage therapists, nail technicians, hair dressers and estheticians, who provide facials. 

The union and the hotel have battled for months about the proper way to conduct an election among spa employees. HERE wants workers to sign union authorization cards while the Claremont wants a secret ballot election.