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Keith Alexander

Travelers Need To Plan in Case Of Hotel Strike

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, September 21, 2004; Page E01

Henri Manasse remembers checking into the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul a few years ago when the employees there were on strike.

The frequent flier from Rockville had to make his own bed. His room wasn't cleaned. His towels and washcloths weren't changed. And getting room service wasn't even an option.

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Manasse said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't stay at a hotel while employees were on strike. "I recommend staying at another property," he said.

With unions and hotels in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles locked in tense contract negotiations, strikes could soon occur at some hotels, including some owned or managed by Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. Travelers could find themselves having to cross picket lines if the two sides are unable to reach an accord. Among the key issues is the length of a new contract.

The unions are scheduled to meet with hotel officials today in a bid to avert a strike in the District.

If the talks fail and a strike is called, it's unclear how many hotels would be hit. At most, nine hotels in Los Angeles, including the St. Regis and the Westin Century Plaza, 14 hotels in San Francisco and 14 properties in Washington could be affected. But workers also may strike at just one hotel in each city, or the action may not be even that extensive. For a listing of the hotels possibly affected, travelers can go online to the union-sponsored Web site, www.hotelworkersunited.org/factsheets.asp, then click on a city.

The hotels say they have contingency plans to ensure that business remains as usual during a strike. "We will be open and operating as always and we have plans in place to manage and ensure that our guests receive the best customer care," said Jeanne Datz, a Hilton spokeswoman. The Hilton San Francisco and the Capital Hilton and Washington Hilton & Towers hotels in the District are among the properties threatened by the strike.

Spokesmen for Hilton, Marriott and Starwood said that in the event of a strike, they have no plans to waive cancellation fees.

Managers of the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles last week locked out laundry employees and quickly filled their jobs after a contract standoff between the union and management there.

Hotel strikes do not commonly affect properties nationwide but rather are touched off at isolated sites. The unions are hoping to strengthen their clout by seeking two-year contracts in the three cities that expire at the same time as current contracts in New York, Chicago and other cities.

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