Unite Here, the union representing hotel workers, and the hotel multi-employer group in Toronto are at the negotiating table attempting to hammer out a new deal after hotel employee contracts at 23 properties in Toronto expired January 31.

Toronto is the first of six North American cities that will see hotel employee contracts expire in 2006. Later this year, contracts will run out in Honolulu, New York, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles. Unlike the United States, where lockouts and strikes can occur as soon as the contract expires, the process in Canada is more structured, with bargaining sessions allowed after the contract deadline and advance notice required before action is taken.

Meanwhile, union activity is heating up across North America. Members took to the streets in early March to distribute leaflets outside more than 100 nonunion Starwood and Hilton hotels, calling for better wages and benefits. The action is part of the Hotel Workers Rising campaign.