The Hilton Bayfront
The Hilton Bayfront / Photo by Megan Wood

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This post originally appeared in the July 14 Morning Report. Subscribe for free here.

Noemi Ponce was one of the many Hilton Bayfront workers who temporarily lost their job when COVID hit. She was forced during the pandemic to move out of an El Cajon apartment and into a garage in Spring Valley to make ends meet.

“This is my life now and my daily struggle,” she told reporters on Wednesday outside City Hall, where a group of union leaders and politicians rallied for a better contract.

Negotiations, as Jesse Marx wrote last month, have been slow-going. Unite HERE, the hotel worker’s union, says the Hilton Bayfront’s offer of a 50-cent per hour increase is much less than what they wanted and undercut by its additional proposal to raise the cost of employee parking by $20 a month. The standard hourly rate, according to the union, is about $20 an hour. 

A strike authorization vote is scheduled for Friday, less than a week before the start of Comic Con, which attracts thousands of visitors and pumps millions into the local economy.

Mayor Todd Gloria said tourism is key to the city’s economic recovery because the tax revenue helps sustain public services. The industry is rebounding, he said, but the folks on the frontlines need to be well compensated as the cost of living grows. “One job should be enough to support your family in this city,” he said. 

With conferences coming back and the costs of hotel rooms rising, said City Councilman Raul Campillo, “you can’t tell me you can’t pay your workers more.” He called the hotel’s offer to its workforce “insulting.” 

Laura Ford, a spokesperson for the hotel, sent Voice of San Diego a statement after the press conference saying it “maintains a cooperative and productive relationship with UNITE HERE Local 30 and we are confident that we will reach an agreement that is beneficial to our valued Team Members and to our hotel.”

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