Hotel workers in Chicago and San Francisco voted this week to authorize a strike if a deal isn’t struck between the workers union, Unite Here, and the hotel employers in those cities.

The authorization vote does not mean that a strike is imminent or required if an agreement isn’t reached in a timely manner, explains Jason Ortiz, Unite Here spokesman. It simply empowers the union to strike if necessary.

In Chicago, employee contracts at six hotels—Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Hilton Chicago, the Drake Hotel, and O’Hare Hilton—expire August 31. In San Francisco, union employees have been working without a contract since August 2004. In both cities, negotiations are ongoing. Pensions, workloads, and healthcare, wages, and card-check neutrality are some of the issues on the bargaining table.

Strikes have also been authorized in the following areas: Toronto, where contracts expired January 31, 2006; Monterey, Calif., where contracts expired at the end of July; and Hawaii, where contracts expired June 30. Unite Here Local 5, the Hawaii-based chapter of the union, did agree to terms with Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu in July, ending a labor dispute that’s been going on since 1999 when worker contracts expired.

In other union news, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place in Chicago, this week announced a five-year deal with the Decorators Union Local 17. The Decorators Union is responsible for hanging signs and installing drape, cloth and/or tacked fabric panels at the convention center. The new deal includes reduced overtime charges, increased wages, and defined language on reduced crew sizes. In May, MPEA signed a deal with the Riggers Union Local 136.