Tired and unshaven representatives for the city's unionized hotel workers and hotel managers signed a tentative new contract at dawn yesterday ending a strike threat at hotels in Washington.
The draft three-year contract, painstakingly stitched together during 45 hours of continuous negotiations, includes a $54-a-week raise for maids, free meals for all hotel employes and new free legal and eye care programs.
The agreement between representatives of the 6000-member Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employes Union and the 39-member Hotel Association was praised by both sides. The previous contract expired at midnight Friday.
"It's a fair contract and both of us can live with it," said Allen G. Siegel, chief negotiator and legal counsel for the Hotel Association.
"It's a fantastic contract. The best one in the history of the hotel industry in Washington," said Ron Richardson, the union's chief negotiator and secretary-treasurer. He said the contract was "chock full of fringe benefits" for workers.
He predicted that the contract would be ratified "overwhelmingly" by union members in a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
Richardson and Siegel declined to disclose details of the settlement before the meeting. Sources close to the negotiations, however, said the contract calls for hotel workers who do not receive tips, such as bartenders, dishwashers and maids, to receive a $43-a-week raise during the three years - $15 the first year and $14 in the second and third years.
In addition to the proposed weekly salary increase, maids would also receive an increase in their hourly rate, pushing it up from the current $3.50 to $3.68.
Employers who do receive tips, such as waiters, waitresses and bellmen, would receive a $9-a-week increase during each year of the contract, totalling $27, sources said.
All employers will also begin receiving free meals in their hotels. If a hotel lacks food facilities, employes would be given $1 a day to buy their lunches or dinners, sources said.
The contract also calls for a new management-financed legal fund during the first year, a new free optical program the second year and major medical coverage in the third year.
The union failed to obtain six additional days of paid sick leave - workers have three such days now - and additional paid holidays or paid vacation time. These expensive items were negotiated away in favor of the wage package and the other fringe benefits, sources said.
The value of the wages and fringe benefits adds up to a 10 per cent-a-year increase for workers, sources said.
Throughout Saturday, negotiators emerging from the talks on the 11th floor of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel had been predicting a bleak outlook for a settlement.
Union representatives made a take-it-or-leave-it offer at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Siegel credited federal negotiator Harold Mills, who volunteered his services, with "keeping everybody there" after that point.
We thought it was going down the tubes," Siegel said, because management rejected the proposal. But Mills told both sides, "You've got to talk. I'm not going to let this thing fall apart," according to Siegel.
By midnight, management had agreed to the wage increase, union sources said. During the next seven hours, the final fringe benefit package was hammered out with the union dropping some demands.
The appearance of the union's international president, Ed Handler, helped break the log jam, said Joseph Beavers, a high-ranking union official.
Handler told management the international would step in and pay strike benefits during a long strike if it emptied Local 25's treasury, Beavers said.