Night of the living unions!

Part 2 of a 2-part story

On June 11, an unusual rebellion marched through downtown Chicago – complete with makeup and tattered clothing. It was the 4th annual Chicago Zombie March, in which thousands of people gathered at Millennium Park dressed as zombies and, well, marched through the streets.

In the midst of this entertainment, union members from UNITE HERE Local 1 applied some face paint and walked the picket line in front of the Congress Hotel. Local 1 represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana. The hotel is the home of the longest strike in U.S. history. In keeping with the current trend of progressive action at the hands of zombies, the hotel was an important stop on this monster mash through downtown Chicago.

Millennium Park’s public Cloud Gate sculpture (referred to as “The Bean”) was the meeting place for these zombies – which included people of all races, orientations, and ages,  families, teenagers, and older zombie fans sporting gruesome heavy metal shirts. Mostly everyone acted in character, being sure to stumble and groan ominously as news reporters and photographers documented the event. Participants were happy to have pictures taken with non-zombies. The whole gathering had a very strong community feeling and, despite the subject matter, appeared to be all in good fun.

Other interesting parts of the march included a group of zombies dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as reporters and onlookers laughed and applauded.

Not everyone looked like a traditional zombie. Some people wore clown masks or skeleton masks, and there were even a number of creative individuals who sported military outfits and gasmasks, which were meant to portray the soldiers and agents who commonly handle “viral zombie outbreaks” in films.

For those who wanted convincing makeup (splatters, cuts, the “rotting look”), there was a makeup crew on hand taking appointments from those who wanted to become “zombified.”

Since this was the fourth year in a row for Chicago Zombie March, many Chicagoans already knew about it. Others were confused. Two students, originally from Chicago, were visiting from the University Rochester in N.Y., and, having not been present for previous zombie events, were initially bewildered. After learning about the march, they became extremely interested in taking part in it, as well as photographing some of the zombies.

Zombies have been grabbing media attention lately for new reasons: people protesting for positive change have taken to dressing up like the creatures as a way to draw attention to their cause. In Florida, they protested Republican Rep. Dan Webster’s, move to end Medicare. And just recently, zombies led anti-Walker protests in Madison, Wisconsin.

Everywhere they go zombies seem to leave an impression – ironically enough a positive one. The Chicago Zombie March display of subcultural liberation was harmless, respectful, and, a little shocking. Though it was not intended to be a political demonstration, it painted a scene of working class families enjoying themselves, while shocked business executives looked on distastefully from behind windows stained with fake red blood.

Photo: During the 4th annual Chicago Zombie March, a group of ‘progressive undead’ walks the picket line at the Congress Hotel. Ariel Starks





Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.