MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Hotel workers voted by a large majority Wednesday to accept a tentative 5-year contract agreement and end their strike, one day before the start of a massive Alcoholics Anonymous convention.
''The contract was ratified by a substantial margin of those who voted,'' said Jaye Rykunyk, secretary-treasurer and principal negotiator for Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 17. She declined to release the vote totals.
''It's really a great victory for us,'' Rykunyk said. ''We're very, very happy with the contract settlement.''
Workers were expected to start returning Thursday and most should be back to work by the weekend, said Michael Colloton, lead negotiator for the hotels.
The strike began June 16 and was extended one hotel at a time to seven hotels -- four in Minneapolis and three in Bloomington -- and about 1,100 workers. Nine hotels with about 10 percent of the hotel space in the Twin Cities were involved in the negotiations.
''I think the settlement is very fair, and it rewards the workers well for their hard work,'' Rykunyk said.
The contract includes two pay classifications. Workers at the lower end will receive wage increases of 26 percent over five years, while those at the higher end will get a 20 percent wage increase.
Wages will increase 6 percent at the lower end and 4 percent at the higher end. Subsequent increases are divided evenly over the contract, effective each May 1 and Nov. 1, Colloton said.
Gains were made in health benefits and pensions, and workers will receive a seventh paid holiday beginning in 2003.
''Essentially it's a personal holiday but we're calling it Diversity Day. The various ethnic groups can take the day that's important to them. We've got Tibetans and Somalis and African-Americans and Russians, a little bit of everything. A lot of these people have a particular day they want to celebrate and I think they ought to,'' Colloton said.
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