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September 29, 2005

2006: National Showdown in the Hotel Industry

In San Francisco, a number of hotels have caved into union demands to have a new union contract expire in 2006, next year.  This follows most Los Angeles hotels agreeing a few months ago to a contract that expires next year.

These two cities will therefore join simultaneous contract negotiations in New York, Boston, Honolulu, Chicago and Toronto, a total of 75,000 hotel workers around the country-- and the opportunity to negotiate not just city-by-city but to establish a national contract with the major hotel chains.

What is this critical? The reality of the hotel industry is that there are a few cities like New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco where most of the major hotels are unionized, and there are a vast number of smaller cities and towns where only a handful or no hotels have a union-- -- and those cities have the low pay to prove it.

National negotiations open up the possibility of not just leveraging greater national pressure to raise standards in already unionized cities, but to negotiate national agreements for "card check" and "neutrality" provisions that would make organizing in non-union cities far easier.

Now, the national chains recognized this and have fought like hell against a convergence of contract expiration dates.  But except for a few holdouts in San Francisco (who may yet cave), it looks like 2006 is set to be a national showdown in the hotel industry of potentially epic proportions.  

Similarly, SEIU recently was able to force card check deals for janitors in Houston using pressure from around the country on national chains, just as CWA has used its negotiations with its Bell companies like SBC to leverage organizing in previously non-union cell phone divisions-- adding thousands of workers in the South to the union.

Using power established in already unionized areas to leverage new organizing in non-union areas of the country is one of the critical tools needed for labor revival.

The hotel workers are set to make 2006 the year they bring that strategy to bear on the major national chains, so progressives need to recognize the stakes in this coming fight and prepare to help in whatever way they can.

Posted by Nathan at September 29, 2005 11:41 AM