- The Washington Times - Monday, September 27, 2004

The union for employees at 14 of Washington’s biggest hotels said they want a week to review new proposals made yesterday by management negotiators.

The proposals involve reworded versions of the issues that prompted the union to threaten a strike after its contract expired Sept. 15, according to spokesmen for both sides.

Amanda Cooper, spokeswoman for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 25, described the hotels’ new proposals as “different language on different sections of the contract, but nothing significant.”

Progress yesterday to avert a strike involving more than a quarter of the city’s hotel workers was “minimal,” according to Lynn Lawson, spokeswoman for the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C.

The union broke off the discussions around 1 p.m.

“The hotel bargaining group is disappointed by the lack of progress and the delay, but we still want to get a contract so we will meet next Tuesday,” Miss Lawson said.

Local 25 also rejected the hotels’ request for a mediator, she said.

Hotel officials say their contingency plans for using management staff are adequate to lessen the impact of a strike on guests.

The 3,800 unionized workers consist largely of housekeepers, bell attendants, room-service attendants, cooks, waiters, dishwashers and maintenance staff.

Union officials said they needed a one-week hiatus in negotiations to ensure they are well prepared.

“It certainly makes it more possible when you have more time,” Ms. Cooper said.

About 200 union members attended the negotiating session at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple at 1000 U St. NW.

Local 25 is seeking a 20 percent wage increase in the first year of a new contract; the hotels have offered 4 percent. The employees also want work rule and benefit changes.

Talks broke down last week after the hotels refused to give in to the union’s demand for a two-year contract that would expire at the same time in 2006 as HERE contracts in other cities. The concession would give the union more leverage in future negotiations with major hotel chains.

Unionized hotel workers from HERE locals in Los Angeles and San Francisco also are negotiating new contracts with similar demands for a single 2006 expiration date.

Although the union members have authorized a strike, they continue working during the negotiations.

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