Some 25,000 workers at 44 of the city's largest hotels went on strike early today in a wage dispute after last-minute negotiations with hotel management collapsed.
The hotels said they would remain open, but the strike could force the Waldorf Astoria, the Plaza, the Pierre and other well-known hotels to find replacements for bellhops, clerks, housekeepers and bartenders. If it spreads, the strike could have a considerable impact on the city's $2 billion-a-year tourism industry.
The strike began around 12:30 a.m. when talks broke off between Vito Pitta, head of the nine-union council negotiating for the workers, and Albert Formicola, president of the Hotel Assn.
"After 14 months of negotiations, they handed us their last and final offer," said Pitta, president of the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, a local affiliate of the AFL-CIO. "It is no better than the offer 14 months ago."
Pitta said the hotels offered a 4.5% wage increase, but the union was seeking a 7% hike. Workers and management have also been in dispute over contract length and several other issues. The union represents a wide range of workers, including chefs, maids and reservation clerks.
Union officials said they have the support of other labor organizations, including the Teamsters, who reportedly have agreed not to service hotels being struck.