CHICAGO – Housekeepers at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Chicago are on strike today to demand a fair process to organize a union. The striking room attendants rallied at Daley Plaza her this morning.
Workers at the Hotel Monaco first approached hotel management in November 2014 to demand a fair process to decide on unionization. A fair process is an agreement where the employer pledges not to interfere while employees decide whether or not they would like to join a union. It guarantees no interference or opposition from management.
The Hotel Monaco is among four Chicago hotels operated by Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group. Unite Here, Local 1 currently represents workers at two Kimpton hotels in the city, the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro. Workers at the Hotel Palomar won a union contract in 2012 after the hotel agreed to a fair process to organize.
In a March survey of 11 out of 21 total housekeepers at the Hotel Monaco by Unite Here, 72 percent said that they regularly have to work during one or more breaks to complete their required tasks. Only two workers reported that their 8.5-hour shift was enough time to clean their rooms and take their required breaks.
“I love my job, but it has been very difficult. I clean sixteen rooms every day. When I get home from work I feel pain all over my body,” says Maricela Gonzalez, a housekeeper at the Hotel Monaco for 15 years and mother of three children.
“Instead of playing with my daughter when I get home, sometimes I collapse on the couch and she helps rub my sore feet because I’m too tired to move.”
In 2014, non-union Hotel Monaco employees like Maricela had to pay at least $1,500 per year for individual health insurance with a $3,000 deductible, or $8,000 per year for family coverage with a $6,000 deductible.
But unionized Kimpton employees in Chicago at the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro pay nothing for individual coverage, or $360 per year for a family plan.
“When we organized, we won the right to a fair process without management interference, and through that process decided that we wanted union representation. After we chose Local 1, we negotiated a contract, and today I pay only $30 per month for health insurance for my whole family,” says Yarmelli Garcia, a lobby attendant at the Hotel Palomar. Yarmelli’s husband Jesus is a striking housekeeping assistant at the Hotel Monaco.
The Hotel Monaco is owned by Xenia Hotels and Resorts (NYSE:XHR), a recently spun-off affiliate of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group was purchased by Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) last December.
Unite Here, Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.
Photo: Unite Here Local 1