Metro officials say they now can proceed to negotiations with a consortium hoping to build a hotel across the street from the Oregon Convention Center, after a labor peace agreement was reached.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said at Thursday's council meeting the agreement was reached Tuesday.
A rendering of one of four proposals by Mortenson Development. This proposal calls for one large hotel to be built north of the Oregon Convention Center.
The four-party agreement included representatives from UNITE HERE Local 8, which represents hotel workers in Seattle and Portland, and the companies collaborating to pursue the hotel project, which would add as many as 600 hotel rooms near the convention center. The negotiations for the labor peace agreement took about six weeks.
UNITE HERE has been locked in a worldwide dispute with Hyatt, the proposed hotel's owner, about union representation at most of its properties. But elected officials overseeing the planning of the convention center hotel stressed earlier this year that any hotel operator would need to reach a deal to have a labor peace agreement.
UNITE HERE senior researcher Nischit Hegde said the agreement ensures there won't be any economic actions or boycotts against the hotel when it opens.
"It's an opportunity for folks to decide, without intimidation, whether or not they want to join a union," Hegde said of the labor peace agreement.
Hegde said the hotel workers' union will now step back until the project is completed.
"Once the thing gets built, we don't have any say in who gets hired," she said. "Our direct work on this hotel will really start again once the hotel is opened."
That is expected in late 2015, according to the Mortenson Development proposal. Mortenson is proposing to build the hotel project.
Metro representatives stressed that the deal doesn't mean the hotel would be a union property, but it does spell out the process under which the hotel's union status will be decided. Messages to Hyatt's local public relations firm, left at 4:15 p.m., were not immediately returned.
The agreement gives Metro, the Portland Development Commission and Multnomah County the green light to begin negotiations with Mortenson, which is proposing to build as many as 600 hotel rooms and sell the property to Hyatt to operate as a Hyatt Regency-branded facility.
The key piece for the public partners to now negotiate: Money.
In exchange for guaranteeing that hotel rooms will be available for future conventions, and building a hotel near the convention center instead of somewhere else in Portland, the government partners pushing the project would have to offer some cash up front to get those concessions.
Hyatt's initial proposal called for those incentives to be $10 million to $23 million. The hotel chain's proposal also calls for local room taxes from the property's rooms to be rebated back to the property for 30 years, which Mortenson estimated would bankroll $111 million of the property's development costs.
"This project will create several hundred very good temporary construction jobs and about 450 good paying family-wage hotel jobs, so I'm really pleased they've gotten that labor peace agreement that ensures that will happen," Hughes said at Thursday's council meeting.
If the parties reach an agreement on public financing, it would have to be approved by the Portland City Council, Portland Development Commission and the Metro Council. The Multnomah County Commission could also need to sign off on some of the project's financials if they involve county taxes, such as the room tax.
"We see it as an opportunity for really good middle class jobs, and we're excited about it," Hegde said.
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