With only a week to go before a strike deadline, Washington hotel owners still were refusing yesterday to meet face to face with their employes' union. A U.S. mediator shuffled between the two groups for more than four hours as they sat in separate rooms at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.
No progress was reported and the two sides still were said to be far apart, with the parties mired in bickering about who said what to the media and the mediator and the union grousing about being forced to pay $10 for each sandwich brought in by the hotel.
At issue is a union demand for a new contract to replace a three-year pact that expires a week from today. The union proposal would raise the average hourly wage of desk clerks, bellmen, waiters and maids from $4.65 to $5.58 and calls for substantial increases in health and other fringe benefits.
The Hotel Association of Washington, which represents 24 major hotels in the negotiations, has refused to offer a counter-proposal to the union, calling the union demands unrealistic and charging that they would amount to a 50-to-60 percent increase in labor costs for each employe.
Officials of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 25, which represents about 6,000 hourly workers in most of the city's major hotels, announced yesterday they have filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board against all 24 hotels represented by the association.
The union charged that the association has refused to bargain. The association last week sought help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to avoid a strike.
While the union officials waited for the mediator, they complained about the hotel's $10 fee for ham and cheese and roast beef sandwiches. "If they can get 10 bucks for a sandwich, they can pay a living wage," Richardson said.
An association official countered that if the union did not like high-priced sandwiches, "maybe it should look at itself in the mirror," suggesting high labor costs have forced prices up.