Dont disgrace Chicago, Congress Hotel workers tell tourism board

CHICAGO — To its great shame, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau still promotes the Congress Hotel despite a six-year strike that has garnered national attention and solidarity.

Several dozen strikers and their supporters picketed the group’s annual membership meeting March 11 in the frigid cold at McCormick Place. They were joined by a spirited group of McCormick Place restaurant workers who are also members of Unite Here Local 1.

Another group of strikers attended the function by buying a table at the luncheon. They buttonholed guests to win further support and press their point that the Congress Hotel union busting is a disgrace to the city.

Workers at Congress Hotel went on strike June 15, 2003, after the hotel froze wages and slashed benefits. The Congress Hotel went ‘rogue’ by opting out of the pattern wage and benefit agreement that had been reached between the union and all the downtown Chicago hotels. The picket line has been going strong for six winters as has the solidarity of the city’s other hotel workers, labor and progressive movements.

With Chicago increasingly in the international spotlight due to its 2016 Olympic bid, strikers are calling on the Convention and Tourism Bureau and potential Congress Hotel customers to ‘Be like Barack’ and pledge to refuse to cross the picket line until the strike is settled. President Obama famously walked the picket line in 2007 and pledged his total support.

Even their hospitality industry cohorts get the point. Marc Gordon, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association said, ‘The Congress Hotel is a substandard hotel and has been for several years. The owners do not care about the guests and consistently the hotel has been plagued by lack of proper maintenance, cleanliness, and proper service. I have received more complaints about this hotel than any other hotel long before there was a work stoppage situation.’

The strikers, their union, all of organized labor and supporters will continue to convince potential customers to take their business elsewhere until the fight is won.

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