Union Set to Begin Boycott of L.A. Hotels

Times Staff Writer

The union representing hotel housekeepers, bellmen, waiters and other hourly workers is moving toward an official boycott of nine upscale Los Angeles-area hotels, after six months of negotiations have failed to move either side on key contract issues.

Leaders of the union, Unite Here Local 11, are set to announce today that they are gathering signatures from rank-and-file members to approve a boycott. Given the strong membership backing for strike authorization in a recent union election, they were confident that members would approve a boycott and that it would be in full swing by early November, said union spokeswoman Hilda Delgado. Details of the boycott would be announced then, union officials said.

Matt Wakefield, an attorney for the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council, which represents the nine hotels, has long accused the union of driving business away, and said a boycott announcement would acknowledge that strategy.

"They're just coming out of the closet on it now," he said.

Union organizers began contacting regular customers of the hotels months ago to advise them of the labor dispute but said they were not pushing people to cancel reservations. Nevertheless, some groups did bow out of planned banquets and luncheons. The union now says that such cancellations have cost the hotels about $1 million in lost revenue -- a figure managers say is high.

In a posting to employees on its website last week, the council blasted the union's strategy, saying it hurt rank-and-file members by sending business to nonunion hotels and thus cutting work hours and tips.

"Although the union seems to be very proud of itself, thinking that it is 'putting pressure' on the council hotels, this tactic makes no sense to us," the posting said.

The central contract issue is the expiration date. National leaders of Unite Here want to line up local contracts across the country so that they all expire in 2006, giving each local more power at the bargaining table.

The nine Los Angeles hotels are the Westin Bonaventure, Wilshire Grand, Millennium Biltmore, Sheraton Universal, Hyatt Regency Los Angeles, Hyatt West Hollywood, St. Regis, Westin Century Plaza and Regent Beverly Wilshire.

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