Taking a Seat: Improving Working Conditions at the Front Desk

Mario Delmar, a 25-year member at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square tries out the new working conditions at the front desk on October 19, 2016.

Mario Del Mar, a 25-year Teamster at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square tries out the new seats at the front desk on October 19, 2016.

Workers across California can finally take a load off, thanks to a recent opinion issued by the state’s Supreme Court that states that if employees can perform their duties while seated, employers must provide seats.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Staff Attorney Susanna Farber. “The Court said that an employer’s preference that work be done while standing is not enough to deny workers a seat.”

Teamsters 856 has long been advocating for this finding on behalf of members working in the customer service industry who spend many hours on their feet behind service counters.

In October, Teamsters 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn and President Mike Lagomarsino visited front desk members at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square the day the new chairs arrived.

“There was absolute jubilation, especially from some of our more senior members,” said Lagomarsino. “They finally have some relief after standing for so many years.”

Shop Steward Nora Johnson has been at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square for 44 years. “No one has ever had a seat in my time there,” she said. “People couldn’t believe it.”

Johnson said that many of her colleagues have suffered from back pain, varicose veins, and other health problems from being on their feet for eight hours a day, sometimes even longer if they work overtime.

Finn, who started his Teamster career as a member and steward in the hotel industry while in graduate school, knows firsthand the significance of the Court’s decision for the more than 2,000 Local 856 members who work in the customer service industry. “Being on your feet all day long, year after year, can be incredibly taxing,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring that employers subject to the ruling comply with the Court’s opinion.”

So far, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Parc 55, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, and Clift hotels are in the process of providing seats. Lagomarsino and Farber are continuing to work to ensure that the remaining hotels where Local 856 members work are also in compliance.