Vote in solidarity with Congress Hotel strikers

Listening to candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is hard to take when you think of what their agenda means for real working people. They are truly the voice of big capital. While they claim the opposite, every plank of their program is harmful to the working families who keep our country going.

While watching Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention, I couldn’t help but think of the courageous members of UNITE HERE Local 1. For nine years these hotel workers have maintained their strike at the Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It is the longest hotel strike in our countrys history.

Romney bragged about founding Bain Capital as a young man, which he said has done so much for the economy. It turns out that the family that owns the Congress Hotel also controls Gelmart Industries, a textile producer for Kmart, one of the companies connected to Bain Capital.

The owners’ other investments have allowed them to subsidize the Congress Hotel during the strike in hopes of breaking the union.

But the housekeepers and other staff will not be broken.

They continue to stand firm in order to uphold the wages and benefits of all hotel workers. They continue to strike even while holding other jobs so that every hotel owner will know that if they refuse to bargain in good faith they, too, could face a strike.

The common values of America are not, as Romney says, tied up with big business. It is the strikers at the Congress Hotel who are upholding the common values of equality and fairness upon which our nation was founded.

What a contrast with Barack Obama who walked the picket line with the Congress Hotel workers when he was a U.S. senator.

I had the honor of walking on that picket line one evening a few weeks ago while attending a conference in Chicago.

Each worker told a story. One woman who had worked as a housekeeper remembered how her son was a small boy when the strike began, and now “he is all grown up.”

We chanted, “Dont check incheck out!” In an effort to alert travelers around the country to boycott the hotel while a strike is under way, supporters are asked to circulate the website and spread the word about how the workers went out on strike on June 15, 2003, because the owners decided to freeze wages and slash benefits.

The best way to honor America’s ideals, as Romney claims he would do, is to insure that workers have a voice on the job with decent wages, benefits, dignity and respect. Somehow that didn’t make it into the Romney-Ryan five-point plan.

“The sacrifice the strikers have made to go out on the line daily speaks to not only their dedication, but to the intense belief these individuals have for what they’re doing,” said Henry Tamarin, UNITE HERE Local 1 president, on the nineyear anniversary. “The strikers know their dedication to the boycott will help working families now and in the future.”

One more reason to make sure and vote this year, and get family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to make it a record-breaking turnout, is to show solidarity with the Congress Hotel strikers and working people who are standing up for what truly makes our nation great.

Photo: Supporters join Congress Hotel picket line, Aug. 17 in Chicago. James Raines/PW



Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.