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San Francisco hotel strike averted

Hotel union workers will hold a ratification vote Friday on a tentative pact reached with 13 San Francisco hotels. As reported in last week's "Eventline," landmark properties in the city--including the Westin St. Francis, InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Fairmont, Four Seasons and Hyatt Regency--have been on the brink of a strike by Unite Here Local 2. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome grabbed headlines by joining pickets at the St. Francis last week.

The accord could end a two-year dispute that has included a seven-week lockout of more than 4,000 workers and a union-backed boycott of the hotels. Unite Here has staged aggressive campaigns recently to persuade event planners to avoid nonunion hotels. Its Informed Meetings Exchange site, or Inmex, provides subscribers with information on hotel labor disputes.

The proposed pact, which includes provisions on health benefits and union organization, expires in 2009. The date is significant because it means union agreements in San Francisco will expire at the same time as those in Chicago; a 2009 expiration date is now being negotiated in Toronto, Hawaii and Monterey, Calif. The hotel union has been at work trying to align the traditionally staggered expiration dates of local pacts. A uniform expiration date would enable the union to stage concerted job actions, which would give the union far stronger bargaining power with major hotel chains.

The union says it will now begin negotiations with 18 other hotels in San Francisco, using the tentative agreement as a model.

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