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Hotel super strike looms, union head warns

A strike by 60,000 hotel workers in North America could nip the hospitality's booming year in the bud, but the threat can be averted if the hotel industry adopts some of the policies in place at major casino companies, a union leader said last week.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UNITE HERE president John Wilhelm made the assertions to stock analysts and portfolio managers in a conference call sponsored by a Wall Street investment house. Labor contracts at almost 200 hotels in six cities, operated by such mammoth brands as Hilton Hotels Corp., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, will expire this year.

Wilhelm said that the union has worked closely with the gaming industry in Las Vegas to create programs and to structure contracts that benefit both management and workers. "I understand there are some differences between the hotel industry and the gaming industry," Wilhelm was quoted as saying. "Why the gaming industry has embraced that approach toward value-added opportunities and the hotel industry hasn't is a mystery to me. There is no reason we can't move forward."

The union is not seeking a national labor contract or standardized wage scale, Wilhelm said, preferring instead to negotiate with corporate executives of the major hotel chains rather than local representatives in each city. At present, most hotel labor pacts are negotiated locally, an outdated practice in light of the power of big hotel chains, the union has long maintained.

Photo courtesy UNITE HERE/Hotel Workers Rising Campaign

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