The contract between 14 D.C. hotels and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 25, which represents 3,800 workers, expires Wednesday. The two sides continued to face off across the bargaining table last week at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, with hundreds of hotel workers viewing the proceedings.

The two sides, which have been meeting off and on for weeks, remained far apart last week on key points. The union wants a two-year contract that would come up for renewal in 2006, the same year as in several other major cities. The parent union thinks a nationwide face-off with hotel chains would give it a stronger hand in negotiating for better wages and benefits. The local hotels want a three-year contract, as is traditional.

Also the union seeks changes to working conditions: for example, it wants an agreement to prevent hotels from increasing the workload without union agreement.

So far those are the issues that are proving thorny; the negotiators have not yet gotten to the usual debates over pay and benefits. The hotels have offered a raise of 30 cents per hour each year of the contract for most employees, who now make $13 an hour, and would continue to let current workers avoid paying health insurance premiums.

The union wants an extra $1 per hour and a guarantee that not just current but future employees won't have to pay insurance premiums.

The union plans a vote to give union leadership authorization to call a strike or other action today.


* Independence Air plans today to unveil the first large jet in its fleet, a new 132-seat Airbus A319 that arrived Thursday at Washington Dulles International Airport. Until now, the three-month-old low-cost airline has flown only 50-seat regional jets. The Dulles-based carrier says it plans to lease 27 more Airbus jets by early 2006.

Independence also is scheduled to announce the first two markets the Airbuses will serve when they begin flying out of Dulles in early November. Although airline spokesman Rick DeLisi declined to name the destinations, he dropped some hints.

"The airline has always talked about using these Airbuses to service Florida and some West Coast destinations," he said. Later, he noted: "Orlando is the No. 1 leisure destination in America."

In a news release, Independence promised to introduce a "special surprise guest company" at today's media event. The company, which will partner with the airline, is involved in the Florida tourism industry, DeLisi disclosed.

Would that be Disney, perhaps?

"Something like that," DeLisi said, declining further comment.

* Massey Energy of Richmond, in response to questions at a Lehman Brothers investment conference last week, said it expected to charge an average price of $40 a ton next year while its labor costs will be $32 a ton. For 2006, the nation's fourth-largest coal company said the price could exceed $48, so despite increasing cost pressures, operating margins should be around 30 percent.


* General Physics, a subsidiary of publicly held GP Strategies, was hired by Florida's Polk County to help with logistics, oversee cleanup of debris, plan for post-disaster mitigation and assess damage, including the structural integrity of key government facilities, after Hurricane Charley struck the state on Aug. 13. The company has 135 people assigned to the project. General Physics is using emergency management and public safety software originally developed by its partner, Ramsafe Technologies, as a terrorism response and planning tool for the Atlanta Olympics. It has since been modified for public safety and emergency management.


* CarrAmerica Realty of Washington continues to acquire office buildings in the Del Mar Heights neighborhood of San Diego with the purchase of Corporate Plaza II for $35.6 million. The 116,166-square-foot, two-building, low-rise property is now three-quarters leased. It joins seven other CarrAmerica buildings on High Bluff Drive in Del Mar, approximately a tenth of that submarket. In Southern California, CarrAmerica now owns, directly or through joint ventures, interests in 64 office buildings containing more than 4 million square feet.

The first large jet in Independence Air's fleet, a 132-seat Airbus A319, arrives at Dulles International Airport. The carrier plans to lease 27 more Airbus jets. General Physics has been hired by Polk County, Fla., to help with cleanup and assess damage from Hurricane Charley.