Presidential Events May Be Marred By Labor Dispute
More than 3500 local workers may go
on strike at 14 hotels before the Inaugural events if they are not able to
secure a fair contract settlement. Hotel employees and their union, UNITE
HERE Local 25, have been negotiating with the hotel association since
August 2004. Workers authorized a strike on September 13, 2004 by an
overwhelming 94% majority. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for
Wednesday, January 12. Local 25 continues to negotiate in hopes of avoiding any disruption in
hotel services, particularly as the city prepares for Inauguration events
later this month.
However there is still a long distance between the hotel association’s
proposal and the needs of the workers. The hotel association continues to
offer a two-tiered health care system, and despite high hotel occupancy,
room rates and profits, the hotels are offering the lowest wage increases
Workers want a contract settlement by January 15, so they can approach the
busy Inaugural week with confidence in their job and benefit status.
Strike preparations are well underway in the event that an agreement
cannot be reached. Workers are also concerned by rumors that the hotels
are planning to lock them out after the Inauguration.
“Not only does management refuse to offer us a fair contract, now they
might toss us out of our jobs after they have used and abused us
throughout one of the busiest and most profitable weeks of the year,” says
Patrick Deyhill, a switchboard operator at the Marriott Wardman Park.
“That shows what kind of respect they have for us.”
In the event of a strike or lockout, workers will be off the job and in
front of the hotels, picketing, and making their demands and discontent
heard to passerby and guests alike.
“These well heeled political donors expect the best when they come to a
luxury property like ours,” explains Kimberly Murray, a housekeeper at the
Hyatt Regency - Capitol Hill. “If we are on strike, though, they may have
to carry their own luggage, make their own beds, and give up luxuries like
room service and clean towels.”
“The hotel managers say they will be able to staff the hotels with
replacement workers, but the truth is that they have been having trouble
staffing up even without a strike. Our members are real professionals with
experience and security clearances. We can’t see any way the hotels will
be able to rival the service and security they provide with replacement
workers,” explains John Boardman, Secretary Treasurer of Local 25.
In addition to inconveniences to hotel guests, many events scheduled for
affected hotels could be understaffed or even cancelled. The Presidential
Inaugural Committee’s own Candlelight Dinner and Constitution Ball are
scheduled to be held in hotels where employees may be on strike, as well
as Rudy Giuliani’s Inaugural After-Party.
If the hotel association and the union can arrive at an agreement before
January 15, there is still an opportunity to avoid a strike and treat
Inauguration guests to the full service experience they expect.