In another blow to the local hotel coalition whose members have been boycotted for months, downtown's Millennium Biltmore Hotel will no longer oppose the efforts of a union to line up a contract with cities across the country.


In return, the union will stop urging Biltmore clients to boycott the hotel.


In response to the deal, the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council a group of seven hotels collectively bargaining with the union filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.


The hotel owners, in a 4-3 vote, filed the charges claiming that the union was improperly negotiating with individual properties something not allowed under collective bargaining agreements. Fred Muir, a consultant to the hotel employers council, wouldn't disclose which member hotels voted against filing the charges.


"It's through their coercion of individual members of the council that we believe violate National Labor Relations regulations," Muir said. "We also accuse them of not bargaining collectively in good faith."


David Koff, a research analyst for Unite HERE Local 11, defended the outside agreements with hotel owners saying they did not constitute an outside contract. "They are still entitled to freedom of speech," Koff said. "They have agreed to advocate for and recommend to the members of the employers council that they should accept the proposal the union has had on the table for quite some time."


Ivan Lee, the Biltmore's general manager, would neither confirm nor deny the deal with the union, expected to be formally announced at the end of today. "We don't have anything to disclose at this stage," he said.


The Biltmore's decision underscores an on-going dismantling of what appeared to be a formidable alliance of hotel owners who were seeking concessions from their employees when the contract expired nearly two years ago.


Last month, the owner of the Wilshire Grand agreed to similar terms as the Biltmore. As members of the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council neither hotel can legally cut separate deals with the union. However, the two owners have agreed to vote in the union's favor.


Besides the Biltmore and Wilshire Grand, six hotels that never joined the employers council and instead bargained independently with the union have all reached deals expiring in 2006 the date when contracts in large cities nationwide are set to be renegotiated.


Muir wouldn't address whether the NLRB filing indicated the employers council is concerned the union has driven a wedge between owners.


A union-led boycott has also cut into the bottom lines of employer council hotels, despite also reducing the hours of the workers it represents. The union estimates the boycott has cost the hotels between $10 million and $13 million in canceled room nights, conventions, corporate meetings and banquets by 114 confirmed clients.


The employers council has offered the union a five year contract that would give all full-time employees a $1,000 signing bonus, a 22 percent raise over the life of the contract and free family health care.


Muir said the offer expires Thursday. "It's a one-time offer," he said. "It won't get any better than this."


However, the union hasn't shown interest in the offer. Koff said Unite HERE is adamant the union be allowed to line up contracts nationwide in order to counter the muscle of global hospitality companies.


Another reason the Biltmore conceded to union demands is because owner WHB Corp., a subsidiary of London-based Millennium & Copthorne Hotels PLC, has put the 683-room hotel up for sale.


Already, two hotels that were members of the employers council have been sold cutting the number of member properties to seven from nine.


The new owners of the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles now the Sheraton Los Angeles cut a separate deal and the new owner of the St. Regis hotel in Century City plans to covert the building to condominiums.


Also, the owner of the Westin Century Plaza a member of the employers council has put the property on the market, which could result in another employer dropping out of the bargaining group.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.