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Hilton San Diego Bayfront workers rally with local leaders for ‘fair contract’

A free mental and behavioral health program is improving the lives of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in San Diego. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says the program has been effective and is now serving as a role model across the country.

Unionized workers from the Hilton San Diego Bayfront gathered outside of San Diego City Hall Wednesday to rally for a fair contract.

The hotel is right next to the San Diego Convention Center and the rally comes during the busy tourist season in the region. San Diego Pride is currently taking place and Comic-Con is just around the corner next week.

Noemi Ponce is a housekeeper at the hotel. She's worked there for nine years. “On behalf of my family I ask Hilton Bayfront, ‘Do you think I should have to live in a garage? Do you think my work is worth so little?’ We shouldn't have to work multiple jobs just to get by. We shouldn't have to go to such a length just to live in San Diego,” she said.

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Carlos Castillo
Mayor Todd speaks with UNITE HERE Local 30 members outside of city hall, July 13, 2022.

The workers are preparing to hold a strike authorization vote by this week’s end. At Wednesday's event, they were joined by city leaders including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

“The people at the Bayfront Hilton are the folks who are welcoming people to this city and they're often the first impression they get of America’s finest city. Those people are absolutely critical to whether or not people come back here again and again,” Gloria said.

He told the public that his mother used to clean hotels in San Diego.

“As mayor of this city I’m here to support these workers because those visitors to this city leave behind tax revenue that we use to pave roads, pay police officers and firefighters and keep our libraries and parks open,” Gloria said.

The workers union said that months of negotiations with hotel management have been “slow-going.”

They received an offer from the hotel for 50-cent pay raises coupled with an additional employer proposal to increase employee parking fees by $20.

San Diego District 3 Council member Stephen Whitburn, who represents the downtown area, was also at the event to voice his support for the workers.

“We can not say that we are on our way to a post-pandemic economic recovery if the very workers who are making that economic recovery possible are left behind,” Whitburn said.

UNITE HERE Local 30 represents nearly 600 hotel workers at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, and about 6,000 members working in the hotel, food service, and hospitality industries in San Diego and Imperial counties.