DoubleTree Hotel Workers Protest Stalled Negotiations

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday May 30, 2006

Billed as a wake-up call to management, some 80 DoubleTree Hotel workers and their supporters held a 6:30 a.m. rally Friday, circling the hotel at the Marina with chants and drums, in an attempt to advance what their union, Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees 2850, says are “stalled” contract negotiations. 

DoubleTree General Manager George Rogers said that while the demonstration took him by surprise, “they have the right to speak their mind and raise their concerns.” 

Management is bargaining in good faith and, like the union members, is looking forward to signing a new contract, he said, adding, “I feel like we’re making great progress.”  

“Negotiations were moving along fine, but stalled when it got to health care and other big money issues,” said David Miller, who has worked in the hotel’s banquet division for 16 years. 

At issue for all the 160 unionized DoubleTree workers are the steep health care costs that management is asking employees to bear. Long-term workers would pay $206 per month for family medical and those who have worked less than three years would pay as much as $406. 

Currently, the hotel pays 95 percent of the costs for workers on the job for more than three years and 65 percent for those working three years or less. 

“Health care benefits are based on rates in Nebraska, not the Bay Area,” said Candice Nguyen, a gift shop worker. 

While the question of the cost of health benefits is common to all the DoubleTree Workers, employees in each division have particular concerns.  

A housekeeper at the DoubleTree, Carmalita Cotlen wants to decrease her daily workload. She is asked to clean 16 rooms, which she said includes making up a double bed with a heavy mattress and three sheets in every room. 

“If I finish early, they give me more or send me home” with fewer hours, Cotlen said.  

In addition to health-care issues, gift shop workers are calling for a redefinition of their jobs. Coffee shop operations have been added to the workers’ regular retail sales tasks. 

“We have no tip jar and no pay raise [for the added work],” Nguyen said.  

Banquet-room workers also have specific demands. “All hotels charge a service fee of 18-20 percent [for banquets],” Miller explained. 

DoubleTree recently began to charge 20 percent, but only 11.2 percent goes to the workers. Customers think the service fee all goes to the staff, said Miller. Banquet staff is asking for a larger percentage of these fees. 

As the noisy early morning pickets circled the hotel, one woman, who declined to be named, came out on her balcony to wave and cheer them on. She said she had talked to the workers about the health care issues. 

“I know personally that it’s an important issue,” she said.  

Workers at the hotel, then the Radisson, lobbied and demonstrated for a union, which they won in 2000. The contract they signed in December 2000 expired in December of last year.