For immediate release
January 7, 2005
PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION EVENTS MAY BE MARRED BY LABOR DISPUTE
Guests Will Find Luxury Hotels Less Than Hospitable if Workers Go on Strike
(Washington, DC) – 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 Monday, January 10.
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 in years.
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 Marriot 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.
For more information please call Amanda Cooper at 917-533-4050. UNITE HERE Local 25 represents nearly 5000 hotel workers in the Washington DC area. UNITE HERE is the merged union of hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile and laundry workers. The new union represents nearly half a million workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. To learn more about the Hotel Workers United campaign, visit www.hotelworkersunited.org. To get more information about labor unrest at specific hotels, visit www.hotellaboradvisor.info. More information can be found at www.unitehere.org. If you have questions, or would like to arrange in interview, please call Amanda Cooper at 917-533-4050.