First New York, then Chicago and San Francisco: One by one, hotel worker contracts are being settled in major convention cities across the country, turning a year that once looked ominous for its potential for labor strife into one that may very well end without disruption. “It looks like all the labor unrest and saber-rattling is being handled without any further impact to the customers,” says Joe McInerney, president, American Hotel and Lodging Association.

In mid-September, hoteliers and Unite Here, the union representing workers, came to terms in San Francisco, ending a contentious two-year stalemate that included strikes, lockouts, and boycotts. The five-year deal, retroactive from 2004, covers 13 San Francisco hotels. The two sides also struck deals in Chicago, where contracts at more than 20 major hotels — including all Hyatt, Hilton, and Starwood properties — had expired August 31.

“One thing that is more clear now than it was a couple of years ago,” says John Wilhelm, president, Unite Here, “is that it's very foolish on the part of labor and management and the hotel industry to engage in conduct that puts the customer in the middle.”

New deals still haven't been reached in Toronto and Honolulu, where contracts expired in January and June, respectively. Meanwhile, worker contracts in Boston and Los Angeles are set to expire at the end of November. Talks have not yet begun in those cities.

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