Sheraton Workers to Protest Lack of Wage Increases, Renewed Contact

Negotiations stalled due hotel's reluctance to sign successorship provision that would require new owners to recognize union if hotel is sold; hotel says it has no plans of selling

Employees at Sheraton Petaluma are planning a protest outside the swanky hotel Thursday to voice concern over working without a contract for the past three years.

The union, Unite Here Local 2850, which represents 3,000 hotel employees in North Bay and East Bay, wants the hotel to include something called a successorship provision in the next contract.

That means that if the 183-room hotel is sold, all provisions—wages, healthcare and other benefits—would remain locked in and the union recognized, said Marty Bennett, a research and policy analyst for the union and co-chair of Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County.

Bennett said the owners, who include Tom Birdsall and father-in-law, Don Green, are planning on selling the hotel, which may be why they are reluctant to agree to the clause.

David Scott, the general manager of the Sheraton, said selling the hotel “has never even come up" and that management has been in talks with the labor group and hoped to have a resolution soon.

“We are very proactively negotiating in good faith,” Scott said, adding that everything from wages to health benefits, retirement and even compensating meals was on the table. “These are complicated matters, but we’ve made progress on a good number of points.”

Located at the Petaluma Marina, the Sheraton is the only unionized hotel in the entire county. Front desk staff, maids, janitors and other non-tipped staff receive $10 to 15 an hour.

But despite the hotel’s high profit margins, workers have not received a raise in the past two years, Bennett said.

The protest, scheduled for 5pm Thursday outside the hotel, will be a first for the union, which Bennett said has had a very good relationship with hotel management.

George Barich July 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Living wage my rear end. As an outside contractor, I have done work for this hotel with no problems. My income is down 50% in the last three years because of this recession. I have no guarantees with my job and have taken on a second job at night to stay out of debt, and these workers are complaining they need a pay increase??? Give me a break. Here are some helpful hints on how to survive a tough economy. Live within your means. Vacation at home this year, fix up a used car and live with it, eat home more often, drink less alcohol and use less drugs, take on a second job, sell some of your toys, get off the golf course, do your own yard maintenance, learn to work on your own house, do your own laundry, wash your own car, etc. Livable wage? These people kill me with this socialist crap that just raises the cost of everything and is inflationary. If Marty Bennet has his way, Petaluma will begin to look like Detroit, MI. Work without a contract and stop whining.
Frank Smith July 24, 2012 at 05:02 PM
This guy is a typical union hater. I'm sure he must be a republican as well. It's possible he doesn't know what living wage means. His helpful hints have merit but I would bet those workers already do the things he has mentioned. No one in working in that industry gets rich besides the owners. Honor Labor.
Barry Bussewitz July 24, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Indeed, Mr. Barich has spoken up in the past in favor of "honest leadership, dedication, experience, hard work, transparency, common sense" — good labor values in my union! The point here is that honest work requires honest pay.
David Keller July 24, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Mr. Barich was recalled from Cotati City Council in 2009, but now seems preoccupied with adding his reactionary invectives to Petaluma's community discussions. The late Cotati Councilmember Robert Coleman-Senghor supported the recall, "not because of Barich’s political philosophy but rather because of his political practices: his bullying and ridiculing of citizens, his skirting of city ordinances, his stretching the limits of his narrow authority, his misrepresentations of facts and twisting of unsettled law, his threats to the fiscal welfare of the city with shrouded intimations of litigation and his willful refusal to allow the people to exercise their collective will in matters of taxation." Other claims lodged against Barich included: That he misused city stationery to write President Obama. That he posted a racially charged picture on a personal website. He used of an image of the Cotati official seal on his personal website. See more at http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/George_Barich_recall,_Cotati,_California_%282009%29
David Keller July 24, 2012 at 11:22 PM
The developers and owners of the Petaluma Sheraton Hotel originally asked the city to supply several million dollars in redevelopment funds, claiming that they couldn't secure hotel construction funds without that subsidy. This came after the Petaluma Marina partners had already received multi-million dollar subsidies through below-market sale of city owned marina property to them after they likewise claimed that they couldn't get funding for construction on 99-year leased city lands. The developers also shifted to the city their prior responsibility for repayment of Calif. Dept. of Boating and Waterways loans to build the marina (the shortfalls beyond the marina's net income) at the same time. Part of the agreement reached with the hotel developers was that in exchange for the city providing $1M+ in redevelopment funds, the hotel was required to offer card-check neutrality election for union representation of employees, living wages, and use 50%+ union labor for construction. They agreed and took the city's money (I was one of the contract negotiators). If the hotel owners wish to breach that agreement with labor and the city, they should not have taken the city's money to begin with.
George Barich July 25, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Mr. Keller's research deserves a failing grade. I work in Petaluma and have commercial property there. As a registered Independent, I have served on a city council and know all about living wage ordinances from the Coalition to Protect Cotati;s Future which was a far left radical group that has dissolved. The proposed ordinance was so unpopular, it never made it onto a city council agenda because even the Cotati City Council knew it went too far to the left and would be a public relations disaster in the first degree. As a newspaper publisher, www.thecotatiindependent.com, no one has sent us anything advocating such a ridiculous concept as a living wage ordinance be adopted, not in this economy. I have been a member of three unions in my life, last as an electrician, and my father was a union representative at Bay Meadows Race Track for many years. So, go pound salt, Keller. Coleman walked door to door in the heat of the summer because of my stellar voting and attendance record and my insistence to teach the good professors a few lessons he never learned along the way in life. Coleman was not one of my best students, just one of my most stubborn and unable to tolerate diversity on a city council, may he rest in peace. That's history now.
George Barich July 25, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Even with attorneys who came to my aid pro bono and proved the city had overreached with claiming city council members could not use the same logo on their business cards provided by the city and place it on their blogs, Coleman was defiant because my attorneys had law on their side and didn't make it up as they went along. Coleman also pledged "to look for money wherever it may be hiding" as a management approach to running a city. This freeloading mindset became nothing less than a huge failure. Now these hotel workers are whining they haven't had a pay increase in years. They are lucky they have a job at all. Go on strike and watch hundreds of people line up down the street for these jobs.
Barry Bussewitz July 25, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Mr. Barich: In the interest of taking your claims seriously, I clicked on the one supporting link you provided. This led me to The Cotati Independent, where I then went through twelve months of the archives posted there. Every single one was another link. Those links were invitations to "View my complete profile." That profile was for George Barich. The link for that further required that I enroll in "Sign in and start sharing with Google+." I stopped there.
AyurvedicMama July 25, 2012 at 07:26 AM
Ok, I have to say that I have disagreed in the past with some of Mr. Barich's comments, but I think what he is saying here folk's is that many people are living beyond their means and expecting more from employers, unions, etc without looking at the big picture. Right now, people are fortunate to have a job in this economy. Things are tight right now, for everyone. I am a Mother in a family of 4 and was in debt just a couple of years ago. My husband and I worked diligently the past couple of years to pay off our debt, however that meant buckle down and not spend and do exactly as Mr. Barich suggested and we are so fortunate we did just that! The American Dream = Live beyond your means and expect someone else to bail you out! And it has nothing to do with politics. I also believe that work ethics have changed quite a bit. It's important to truly stand up for what is right and what you believe in... however right now, I would bite my tongue just to keep a job in this economy!
George Barich July 25, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Mr. Bussewitz, No one is asking that you view my personal profile, so get off it. The website I provided merely provides the last twelve issues of the Cotati Independent in PDF form and has no invitation that you do anything. There is a link to donate online, as many people have. There is a facebook link if you wish to comment further. Google may ask you to join Google Plus by clicking on my photo but I'm not. Avoid the issue at your peril, Sir. The facts speak for themselves. I have financial interests in Petaluma, have friends and clients in Petaluma. If the hotel union bring the Sheraton to it's knees and forces it to go belly up, it is one more lost client for me and another for sale sign in Petaluma. Go ahead Keller, push it. That aside, a Living Wage ordinance is one of the most ridiculous concepts imaginable. Do students living at home saving for college need a living wage? Do elderly people looking to make extra income need a living wage? Will a living wage simply raise the price of products and services in Sonoma County? Who is going to determine this Living Wage? What's the criteria? Does everyone need to own their own automobile to go to work? It's ridiculous and leads to more unemployment. More social engineering....But when you think about it, maybe that's the endgame.
Timothy Nonn July 26, 2012 at 06:40 AM
I am planning to attend the hotel workers’ informational picket tomorrow at 5:00 PM at the Sheraton Hotel because I support fairness. What does a hotel worker at the Petaluma Sheraton earn? Maybe $15 an hour. After paying the rent, grocery bill and other expenses, that doesn’t leave much money for anything else. What did the CEO of Starwood (the parent company of Sheraton) earn last year? Over $16 million! That kind of dough will buy a lot of chicken and eggs. Maybe corporate executives think they deserve to earn millions while they pay their workers pennies. I don’t. Do you? It’s all about fairness.
George Barich July 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
No you don't, Tim. You support some twisted idea of "social justice" and distributing other peoples wealth earned from hard work and sacrifice into your pocket and won't quit. In your utopia world, there are no winners and loser, no risks, and everyone is equal regardless of their skill sets, education, talents, abilities, and the demand for their products and services. There is no innovation in your socialist system, just trickle down poverty and oppression for all. Tim, you are a closet communist, Occupy Petaluma fanatic, posing as some do-gooder, who wants other people to pay for your mistakes in life at the end of a gun barrel. So, what are these "extra expenses", you claim these hotel workers need, Tim? Child support? Alimony? Credit card debt? Court ordered restitution? Medicinal marijuana? SF Giants tickets? Happy ending at the local massage parlor? You can't compete in the free market Tim and think other people shouldn't have to either. I've listened to your dribble at Occupy Petaluma Executive meetings and had to hold back the puke. I've seen the hatred in your eyes, the contempt for free markets that has made this country the envy of the world, where our poorest live better than the elite in communist countries. Your propaganda won't fly in Petaluma, Tim. You are a perfect example why not everyone should own a home. Happy picketing, comrade.


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