Tourism workers emerge from the pandemic

Melanie Anger likes to joke that hospitality is in her blood. She was not born to sit at the table all day. In addition, she meets new and interesting visitors in the city center.

But she was only making $10 an hour raising four kids when she first started working at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. She now earns $18 an hour as a hostess, but that’s not enough to feed her family even when she’s working full time.

These days, she took shifts at another restaurant and opened her own picnic business. The single mother works three jobs and is still saving up, despite decades of parking, to buy a house.

Anger sustained her when one of her grown daughters was interviewing for a waiter position in another city. But as a member of Unite HERE Local 30, a hotel and restaurant union that sits on the negotiating committee, she also issued a warning about going into the hospitality business: “Only if you can get good pay from one job. “.

Tourism is central to San Diego’s economy, and the three sectors that support it — food service, housing and the arts, and entertainment and recreation — accounted for about 5 percent of gross regional product before the pandemic, according to a Workforce Partnership analysis. But at the same time, these sectors account for nearly 13 percent of all local jobs, highlighting how they are among the lowest paid in San Diego.

IATSE rally outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt October 9, 2021 / Photo by Joe Orellana

The industry was decimated when COVID hit, causing conventions and leisure travel to disappear overnight. But hotel workers and stage workers who make concerts and other big events possible have emerged from the pandemic complaining about payment, hours and conditions in a very public way. They are capitalizing on a tough job market to make new demands and draw energy from a younger and more diverse base, as well as from their allies in elected office.

The goal is twofold. The unions want to improve the living conditions of the people who form the backbone of tourism. They also see this moment of rising inflation and high labor demand as an opportunity to create a more visible and influential workforce that San Diego has always lacked.

In other words, a bigger project is not just a material – it is a dispute about more control over the market. This is political.

At the end of last year, the Supervisory Board adopted a resolution requires an employee ID at festivals on county lands and reopened the Regional Film Commission to attract film production. Both are likely to benefit the Local 122 International Theater Alliance, which recruited new members at the Vista Moonlight Amphitheater in March.

After holding public demonstrations, the union also entered into an agreement with San Diego State University’s new Snapdragon Stadium, similar to the agreement with Petco…

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