By Vera Sauchanka, Johanna Medrano
Thousands of housekeepers, servers, cooks and doormen walked off their jobs at 26 downtown hotels on Friday after failing to reach an agreement on a new labor contract. According to the UNITE HERE Local 1 union, this is so far the largest hotel workers strike ever held in the City of Chicago.
One of the main workers’ demands is a year-round health insurance, additionally to a higher pay, more sick days, and more manageable workloads. It’s a common practice for hotels to lay off workers during winter when business is slower, which ultimately leads to workers losing their health coverage and other benefits.
According to sources, a number of fine dining restaurants, including the Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s fine-dining restaurant and Torali Italian-Steak, are closed or offering limited menus. Inside the Palmer House Hilton, long lines await check-in, dirty towels have been piling up, and beds have been left unmade. One of the guests has described the line for check-in as being “literally around the building.
In the central business district, there are 174 hotels, which means Chicago guests and residents could stay somewhere that is not dealing with contract negotiations, even though the hotels in the midst of a strike are some of the biggest ones in Chicago.
Each hotel brand does its own negotiation with the union, so management at some hotels could make agreements with the union before others. Hotel groups say it’s too early in the negotiation process for workers to go on strike.
According to the Hyatt spokesperson, they have not received the union’s complete proposals yet. “Colleague benefits and wages remain unchanged as we negotiate a new agreement… Many colleagues are working… “