With Labor Day looming, Chicago hotel workers vote to strike
"Proud to have @unitehere VP and @DNC Vice Chair @MariaEDurazo with us this week as hotel workers across the city sign up for strike benefits and picket shifts! Si se puede!" Unite Here Local 1/Twitter

CHICAGO—After months of attempting to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, Chicago hotel workers have voted to strike when their final effort to reach a deal with employers fell through. Workers from some of the city’s most popular hotels voted last Wednesday to authorize a strike that, barring any major developments, will commence August 31.

According to The Chicago Sun Times, approximately thirty-one hotels, many of which are centrally located downtown, would be affected by the work stoppage. With over 90 percent of Unite Here Local 1’s membership voting in favor of the strike, the union has reached an overwhelming consensus about moving forward.

The impending strike could cause a significant blow for business, especially with the upcoming Labor Day weekend drawing in tourists. The list of affected business include: The Palmer House Hilton, The Drake, Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago-Metro, and Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, among others. The union has posted an official countdown on its website with a complete list of all hotels involved in contract negotiations.

Karen Kent, President Unite Here Local 1 | Unite Here Local 1/Twitter

Negotiations have included discussion around job security, pensions, year-round health insurance, sick days, and overwork. Many employees feel as though the billion-dollar corporations are exploiting their workers by cheating them out of fair wages and affordable family healthcare.

In a video posted online, Unite Here Local 1 recognized the variety of jobs filled by its members and highlighted some of their demands that were not being met. In one part of the video, an employee claims that the hotel companies continue to eliminate company positions in order to cut costs and that they then proceed to overwork the remaining staff. “As a housekeeper, I take pain pills every day,” says one worker named Elizabeth featured in the video. “I have nightmares about having to finish all those rooms.”

Chicago tourism hit a record 55 million visitors in 2017, raking in over $2 billion for the city’s hotel sector, which is in part why employees are saying they know the companies can afford their demands for better wages and working conditions.

If a new contract is agreed upon, more than 15,000 hospitality workers would see improvements. Until the hotel companies concede to union demands, however, the countdown continues. Workers are standing their ground and getting ready to hit the picket line if necessary.


Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias was a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities.