News & Research Archive

When Politics Collide with What Is Best for Our City

Nov 18, 2004

 

When Mayor Gavin Newsom sided with the hotel workers union last week, he compromised his position as the best person to negotiate a settlement to end the lockout. As a result, the lockout could last a long time and have strong negative repercussions for the entire San Francisco business community.

 

When Gavin Newsom won the race for mayor, I had high hopes that we had finally elected a mayor who would promote a more pro business environment while also being attentive to San Francisco political realities. But from day one I was also concerned that he wanted to use San Francisco as a stepping stone toward a higher elected office. This may be the goal of every politician, but judging by the mayor’s actions thus far, he seems to be performing for a much larger audience than the local one.

 

Starting with gay marriage, Mayor Newson has tackled issues that are popular with San Francisco voters and create national and international exposure for himself. Yet, the mayor’s role is not to dictate legislatively but to perform administrative functions. He did not have the legal power to enforce his actions on gay marriage, and however popular his bold move may have been, he was in opposition to the established law. The hotel lockout situation is similar.

 

What the mayor knows, and the press is not giving much attention to, is that this lockout is part of a nationwide strategy to force hotels to sign new contracts that expire at the same time as other major city hotel contracts, thereby putting the unions in a better bargaining position vis a vis hotel owners. The unions are beginning a similar action in Los Angeles. Fred Muir, a representative for hotel owners in Los Angeles, indicates that though hotels are offering a “fair and equitable contract,” the union “bosses in Chicago” want a two-year contract for LA workers so that their contract  will end a the same time as contracts in 10 other cities, giving the union more bargaining leverage. Union official Hilda Delgado-Villa has been quoted as saying that the workers are seeking better health care and pension benefits. She also stated that workers are ready to go back to the bargaining table, but that employers want to set preconditions that would not be in “good faith.” She indicated that the hotels want a six-year contract, while the union wants a two-year deal that would end at the same time as contracts with hotels in other cities.

 

In a recent interview on KFOG, Mayor Newsom boasted of the numerous conventions that were deciding not to come to San Francisco because of the lockout. What kind of message does a mayor send the business community by putting the blame for losing business solely on one segment of it? What is the mayor’s real objective? Does he want local business to thrive? Or does he want to catch the eye of unions nationwide?

 

Since 9/11, hotels and the San Francisco tourist industry have suffered greatly. Only recently has tourism rebounded. A continued lockout will hurt not only the big hotel corporations—every business in San Francisco, from the small restaurant on the corner to large businesses, will suffer. The mayor must set aside his personal ambitions to work for the benefit of the entire San Francisco business community.

Written by: Hans Hansson

E-mail: hans@starboardnet.com


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as Western Regional Vice President for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 19 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email hans@starboardnet.com or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website, http://www.hanshansson.com/.

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