BERKELEY, Calif. — After a long and sometimes bitter struggle, some 400 workers at the luxury Claremont Resort and Spa have won a new, multiyear contract providing wage and benefit increases their union says will raise their overall pay to the area union standard. For the first time, most workers will be eligible for health coverage.

Most significant for about 130 Spa workers — they have a union for the first time. Recognition of their right to organize had been a key demand during four and a half years of struggle by the workers and their union, Unite Here Local 2850.

The new contract covers all the workers, replacing separate contracts that had expired Sept. 15, 2001, and Sept. 15, 2003. After years of management stonewalling and harassment, things began to move forward when the Claremont was sold last year and the new owners brought in a new management firm. Talks for the new contract began in October.

In a conversation at the union’s downtown Oakland offices, workers highlighted retroactive raises, in some cases totaling thousands of dollars, fewer hours needed to qualify for medical coverage, more work hours for spa employees and less management favoritism.

Irene, a Spa reservationist for six years, said her biggest beef had been the total lack of raises during that period. When she was hired, she said, she had to sign an agreement that she was an “at-will” employee. “Now for the first time I have job security,” she said.

Marcos, a hotel housekeeper for eight years, said that besides the substantial raises, “Getting the Spa workers into the union was a great thing for all of us.”

The 90-year-old Claremont is a world-class luxury resort nestled in 22 acres at the base of the scenic East Bay coastal hills. Besides hotel, dining and fitness facilities, it offers extensive meeting space.

During the contract battle, the union and labor and community supporters repeatedly picketed the site and held a number of mass rallies. Local 2850 members from other worksites were prominent on the picket lines. Members of the Berkeley and Oakland City Councils and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates joined protests.

A boycott of the resort, backed by the Berkeley City Council, caused major clients including Bayer Pharmaceuticals and health care giant Kaiser Permanente to cancel functions there.

Local 2850 said last week that it was adding the Claremont to its “preferred hotel list” and would “reach out to assist them in attracting new business.”

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