Negotiators for several major Washington hotels and the union that represents their employees discussed health insurance costs yesterday in a day-long bargaining session that made no apparent progress toward a new contract.
"We are frustrated and disappointed with today's sessions," said Michael A. Viccora, a lawyer representing the 14 hotels. "We came hoping the union would be prepared to engage in meaningful bargaining and they weren't."
Bruce S. Raynor, president of the national hotel union Unite Here, whose Local 25 represents 3,800 Washington area employees, said the two sides were no closer to a deal at the end of the day than they had been at the beginning. "Room rates are high in Washington, the hotels are full, and they need to share those profits with workers," Raynor said.
The two sides have been at an impasse, which has included union threats of a strike, since the previous contract expired Sept. 15. The union wants better working conditions, protection of health and other benefits and a contract that will expire the same year as contracts in New York and other major cities.
In San Francisco, workers at 14 major hotels are in a dispute over similar issues. On Wednesday, workers from four hotels who went on strike last month attempted to return to work; their employers locked them out.
A key deadline in the negotiations occurs Nov. 1. On that date, the hotels' health insurer will raise its rates. If the two sides have not agreed to a new contract by that day, hotel representatives say they plan to require workers to pay the increase. That would mean that workers would be forced to pay more of their health care costs than they would under the proposal the hotels have offered at the bargaining table.
Raynor acknowledged the hotels could do that, but said it would be unfair. He also said workers were prepared to make a short-term sacrifice in order to get a long-term contract that has stronger wages, benefits and worker protections.
The two sides have not scheduled any more bargaining sessions, but both sides agreed to reconsider their demands over the weekend.