The specter of a major hotel
worker strike has all but vanished in some of the
country’s largest cities, including San Francisco, where 9,000
hotel employees had been working without contracts since 2004.
Having struck multiyear deals this year
with local UNITE HERE unions, hotels in Chicago; Hawaii; Los
Angeles; Monterey, Calif.; New York, and Toronto collectively have
set the tone for what promises to be a new era of labor peace at
some of the biggest properties in major meetings destinations.
While John Wilhelm, president,
hospitality industry, for UNITE HERE, is pleased with the
agreements, “there are still a lot of contracts left to be
negotiated,” he noted.
At press time, negotiations remained
for 18 hotels in Los Angeles and 17 in Boston, where many of the
employee contracts expire on Nov. 30. But given that hotel chains
such as Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood already have reached
multiple compromises in other cities, disruptive labor actions are
“I think we are very fortunate that
calm heads prevailed, that businesspeople sat down and negotiated
contracts that were advantageous for both sides, but most
importantly, for our employees,” said Joseph McInerney, president
and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging
While Washington, D.C., and Vancouver
hotels will see contracts expire next year, McInerney expects
relative tranquility on the labor front until 2009.
In September, 4,200 workers accepted
five-year contracts in San Francisco, retroactive to 2004. Over the
past two years, labor-related actions have cost the city $48.7
million worth of business that had been booked, plus untold money
lost on groups that stayed away, according to the city’s convention
and visitors bureau.
“Obviously we’re relieved that
negotiations are over and have been successful,” said Joe
D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco CVB, who added
that several consecutive robust quarters for hotels likely paved
the way for recent concessions. “There’s a little more sense of
security knowing where the bottom line is,” he noted. “Hotels can
afford it. Times have changed.”