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Four Points Becomes City's Third Unionized Hotel

By Juliet McShannon
Staff Writer

Dec. 5 -- The Four Points Sheraton last week became the city's third unionized hotel after the local Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union and the hotel's management signed an agreement that will hike wages by an average of 20 percent.

The agreement -- affirmed by workers November 29 -- provides free health benefits for both full- and part-time employees, as well as a pension plan and protections against subcontracting. Other provisions include immigration protections, reduced workloads, paid lunch breaks and a grievance and arbitration procedure.

"It's a huge step towards raising working conditions for hotel workers," said Kurt Petersen, director of organizing for HERE Union Local 11. "The more hotels that become unionized, the more power the workers will have to address their grievances."

The agreement comes after The Four Points, which is owned by the Kor Group, ended a brief public unionizing drive when it agreed in July to hold a "card check" election, which requires management to remain neutral while workers decide whether to sign union authorization cards.

With last Saturday's vote, the 314-room Four Points joins the Kor-owned Viceroy and the Fairmont Miramar as the city's only unionized hotels.

Bolstered by its victory at the Viceroy in 2000, the union also has targeted the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, which agreed last December to hold a card-check election, and the DoubleTree Guest Suites Hotel, which has resisted union pressure to follow suit.

Petersen applauded Four Points' decision to come to the table, but cautioned that every agreement that has brought a hotel under the union umbrella is unique.

"No two agreements were the same," he said. "Each presented their own difficulties. The most important aspect is that the hotels, including Four Points, came to realize the value of having a partnership with the union.

"The economic impact on the workers will be extraordinary," he said. "This agreement will mean $2 extra per hour for each worker, which equates to over $4,000 a year over the next one and a half years."

The union received a nearly unanimous vote from the workers, with more than 90 percent ratifying the agreement, Petersen said.

The unionizing drive at the Four Points spurred lawsuit filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation alleging that hotel workers were bribed to vote for the union.

Petersen dismissed the allegations as "a frivolous attempt to undermine the workers."

"No worker has come forward to back up the claim," he said. "The NRWO is a right wing anti-union organization and are desperately trying to spoil the union's victory. It is a meaningless distraction, and the suit will no doubt be thrown out."

The union is now focusing its efforts on the DoubleTree, which has refused to negotiate with the union.

"We are not giving up," Petersen said. "We are intent on building a relationship with them. We have targeted and been successful with other hotels... DoubleTree will be no exception. They will eventually see the light."

Petersen believes that DoubleTree's resistance stems from an unwillingness to invest in the workers. "DoubleTree employees pay $200 a month for health insurance," he said. "If part of the union, it would be free."

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