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September 25, 2004

Hotel Unions Negotiate for Future

Right now, unions in San Francisco, LA and Washington, D.C are coordinating strike threats to put pressure on national chains in contract negotiations. Given a history where hotel workers in each city have generally fought individual battles against the multinational hotel chains, this is an impressive ramping up of national strategy.

But the real power of the move is that a key demand of negotiations in each city is for a two-year contract. Why?

Because in 2006, a large number of other city hotel contracts-- including in New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto--will also be up for renewal.

That would mean that hotel workers would be in the position to fight and negotiate for national contracts. The four largest hotel companies (Marriot, Hilton, Starwood and Hyatt) now account for 22% of total sales in the industry. Within the top 15 lodging markets, 75% of the rooms are affiliated with national or global companies.

The hotels obviously would rather be playing divide-and-conquer games against unions in different cities, but the unions have enlisted strong national allies to build a national bargaining strategy:

"The hotel corporations are saying, in effect, that their employees can be separate but equal," says Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, NAACP. "We know from history that separate can never be equal. NAACP members will stand together with hotel workers in this important fight for equality."

"Americans know full well who does the hard work in hotels throughout the country; there is a relationship between the struggle for equity which we in the civil rights community fight every day, and the efforts of these hotel workers to gain equal footing at the negotiating table,” explains Raul Yzaguirre, President, National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.

Unions can't win just by being tougher in these fights; they have to change the game and build new forms of solidarity-- between unions in different cities, between unions and the community, and between nations.

Posted by Nathan at September 25, 2004 09:42 AM