After two years without a contract, workers and management at the Sheraton Hotel in Petaluma have inked a new collective bargaining agreement that gives raises to employees and lowers their health care costs.

Both sides on Thursday called the deal fair.

The Sheraton Sonoma County-Petaluma is the only hotel in the North Bay with a unionized workforce.

The four-year agreement, expected to be announced formally at a celebration Thursday evening at the hotel attended by local and regional political representatives, covers about 100 employees at the 183-room hotel including housekeeping, restaurant and kitchen workers.

The contract calls for hourly raises of about 30 cents annually each year of the agreement, including a retroactive year. The employees' wages range from about $10 to $15 an hour, said Jessica Medina, an organizer with Unite Here Local 2850, the union that represents the workers.

Marty Bennett, a research and policy analyst for the union and co-chair of the Living Wage Coalition in Sonoma County, said the pact provides the best wages and comprehensive benefits at any large hotel in the county.

It also provides workers with important safety protections and safeguards for immigrant workers, he said.

About 30 workers lost their jobs earlier this year when they couldn't prove they were legally allowed to work in the U.S. The contract allows those workers to reclaim their jobs if they can prove their legal work status, Medina said.

Dan Evans, senior vice president of operations for Rim Hospitality, the hotel management company, said the deal was reasonable.

"With economics as difficult as they were, it was a tough time to negotiate," he said.

In the new contract, more of the employees' health care costs will be shouldered by the hotel. Employees now pay about $40 a month for single coverage, which will decrease to $30 toward the end of the contract, Medina said.

"We were able to lower their contributions on single and family (plans) and make it more affordable to them, which is one of the most important things for employees," Evans said. "It's a big expense, but you have to take care of your associates."

The hotel opened in 2002, in part with help from a $2.75 million loan from Petaluma's redevelopment agency. The loan agreement required hotel management to allow unionization of its workforce. The loan has since been repaid.

Workers said they are still seeking a successor agreement, which would require any future owners of the hotel to abide by the collective bargaining agreement.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

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