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Hotel strike: Is Washington next?

Hoteliers in Atlantic City got a break last week as thousands of striking hotel and casino workers voted to approve a five-year contract offered by seven casino-hotels. Although the pact continues to give workers free health care, and the casinos promised to end their practice of leasing space to nonunion restaurants and bars, the union didn’t get all it asked for. The new contract runs five years instead of three, as the union originally wanted. As noted in Eventline, organized labor is working to line up expiration dates of contracts—ideally in 2006--in many cities in North America, giving any labor action added punch.

In the meantime, a union lockout goes on for several prominent San Francisco hotels—the picket lines have even been joined by mayor Gavin Newsom—triggering a sympathy picket line outside a Waikiki property, which, pickets say, sent management to keep its sister property in San Francisco running.

Although big hotel chains don’t want to comment on the strife, a manager close to the situation warns that Washington could be the next hot spot. “We have a large task force now in D.C., due to the potential strike there,” the source says. “The hotels there have historically had a very good relationship with the unions, but [union leaders] sent a task force there some time ago that has really been stirring things up. We fear a strike any day, and have a large contingent ready to go in and help if needed.”

The source adds,” It’s an interesting time, as across the country, membership in general is waning for many unions, as more and more companies try to work better with [employees] to form a better partnership. As with all business, you need to rely on the event management or hotel to work with the union. They hopefully have that relationship that will allow both parties to meet their objectives--and once an agreement is reached, there needs to be accountability. Contracts need to be held firm."

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