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Washington D.C. Hotel Owners Reach a Tentative Three-year Labor Agreement
 with Local 25 of Unite Here; Hotels Will Continue to Pay 100% of Employees
 Health Care  Premiums and Must Reduce Housekeepers' Workloads

By Jen Haberkorn, The Washington TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 6, 2007 - D.C. hotel owners said yesterday they reached a tentative three-year labor agreement with union hotel workers that calls for small wage increases and makes it easier for the union to represent workers at new hotels at National Harbor.

The agreement between hotel managers and Local 25 of Unite Here, which represents hotel employees, still has to be approved by a union vote. Their current contract expires Sept. 15.

The agreement includes a provision that will make it easier for the half-dozen hotels at the National Harbor complex in Prince George's County to become members of the union, said Mike Viccora, a partner at D.C. law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which negotiated on behalf of the hotels and their trade group, the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C.

The "neutrality card check" provision, which has been included in hotel labor contracts in other major cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston, will make it easier to unionize new hotels or hotels recently acquired by a company that is operating another union hotel in the District. Those hotels' employees would be able to conduct a simple vote to join the union instead of undertaking a more complex process through the National Labor Relations Board, Mr. Viccora said.

The provision applies only to hotels in the District and National Harbor, not to Northern Virginia or other parts of Maryland. The National Harbor hotels represent more than 3,000 hotel rooms -- and many potential hotel employees.

The National Harbor hotels are scheduled to start opening in the spring.

The agreement includes a 70-cent wage increase for the first year and a $1 increase over the following two years. The increases apply to hotel employees who do not receive tips. They make an average of $14 per hour, Mr. Viccora said.

The agreement keeps in place a practice that the hotels pay all of their employees health care premiums, as well as a caveat that the hotels will reduce housekeepers' workloads under rules that vary by hotel.

The contract covers 5,000 hotel employees in the District, according to the hotel association. There are 26,000 hotel employees in the city, including managers, who are not represented by a union.

The contract talks went more smoothly than the last set of negotiations in 2004, when hotel employees threatened to strike and negotiations went four months beyond the deadline.

"Both parties came to the table ready and willing to make an agreement that was good for the employees and good for the hotels," Mr. Viccora said.

Union leaders were not available for comment yesterday.


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