Chicago hotels are facing a collective action unlike anything that they’ve never seen before.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
“Workers at 25 hotels in downtown Chicago went on strike Friday to demand year-round health care as they negotiate new contracts, marking the first time their union has called a citywide hotel strike.
UNITE HERE Local 1, which represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers across the Chicago area, said “thousands” of housekeepers, doormen, cooks and other hotel employees have stopped working. They will be picketing around-the-clock at all 25 hotels until an agreement is reached, said spokeswoman Sarah Lyons.
Affected hotels include the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton Grand, JW Marriott and Hilton Chicago. A complete list is at chicagohotelstrike.org.
Collective bargaining agreements at 30 hotels expired Aug. 31, and the union began threatening a strike weeks beforehand. There are 6,000 employees covered by the expired contracts, Lyons said.
Dozens of chanting workers with picket signs and noisemakers walked the strike line in front of the Palmer House Hilton in the Loop on Friday morning, erupting into cheers as passing cars and trucks honked in solidarity. One woman stood in the center banging a pot with a spatula. Commuters hustling to work squeezed past on the sidewalk, some pausing to record video of the commotion.
Tina Graham, who has been cleaning rooms at the Palmer House for 11 years, said employees are striking for year-round health insurance. When the hotel gets slow, typically from October through March, many employees get laid off and lose their health insurance until they return to work when the weather warms, she said.
‘It’s terrible. You can’t go see a doctor and you have ailments from working here, cleaning 16 rooms a shift,’ said Graham, 60. She pulled out a carton that holds her arthritis pain relief medication and the cold/hot patches she puts on her back; she said she got rotator cuff surgery because of the repetitive motions from the job. Accidents are common as room attendants rush to get each room cleaned within half an hour, she added.”