Officials representing 14 major Washington hotels and Unite Here Local 25 yesterday gave mixed reports of progress in negotiations for a new contract for 3,800 hotel workers.
Yesterday's talks centered on possible compromises for some nagging issues, such as how to handle complaints over work schedules.
John A. Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Local 25, said he was encouraged by the meeting. "I would describe today as progress, but slow progress," Boardman said.
But the hotels said the talks had resolved little. "We were very disappointed," said Peter Chatilovicz, a lawyer representing the Hotel Association of Washington in the negotiations. "We keep going around and around, and there's no progress."
Local 25 is seeking changes in working conditions, protection of health and other benefits, and a two-year contract that would expire the same year as contracts in New York and elsewhere. Hotel officials say that the union's proposal would increase costs too much to keep them competitive.
Local 25 had threatened to strike, but it has backed off that threat in the past six weeks. The two sides have met intermittently since the old contract expired Sept. 15.
Since Nov. 1, workers affected by the dispute have had to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums because they are still covered by the old contract, which covers only the old cost of insurance. On Nov. 1, premiums rose, and until a new contract takes effect, the workers must pay the difference between the old premiums and the new ones.
About 4,000 union hotel workers in San Francisco are locked out of their workplaces over similar issues. Also this week, about 100 Unite Here members and staff rallied in Baltimore to support hotel workers in Washington and San Francisco. According to union officials, 16 members blocked Pratt Street in an act of civil disobedience. They and two union leaders were arrested for the action and held for about 24 hours in a Baltimore jail before being released uncharged.