by Brianna Patterson
Upon walking out of the Wabash building students may hear groups of people shouting, “No contract, No peace.” Chicago police officers were found standing soldierly in between crowds of people gathered in groups playing loud music, shouting chants and beating on drums.
These are Chicago hotel workers who have been on strike for three weeks, fighting for a contract and better pay. At the height of the protests in mid-September, the strike included 26 hotels, but is now down to 17 hotels with about 6,000 staff members still striking.
Initially, the hotel employees went on strike to obtain health insurance for seasonal workers who are often laid off in the winter. The UNITE HERE Local 1 Union went on to represent the staff.
Que*, a striker, said they are protesting for employee benefits and welfare. “We are striking for more money, health insurance and fair treatment,” Que said, who brought up an example of unfair treatment. “In the winter the hotel lays off people who have been employees for less than two years and increase the hours of employees with seniority.”
Many strikers experienced getting laid off in “slow seasons” often the winter, thus the common call for contract among employees. Another factor hotel staffs are looking to be included in the agreement before they end the strike is the inclusion of health insurance.
The strike has not only affected the lives of workers, but also businesses in the South Loop area. Sugar Bliss, a restaurant in the lobby of the Palmer House Hilton, put up a sign on the door. The sign read, “Sugar Bliss is not affiliated with the Palmer House Hilton, we are a independent woman owned store.”
Teresa Ging, the owner of Sugar Bliss, said the protests outside the Palmer House has hurt her business. Ging said sales have sagged 50 percent since the strike started three weeks ago. Additionally, Ging said she’s had to cut payroll hours.
“We’re down 50 percent in sales. I’ve cut about 50 percent of payroll hours,” Ging said to CBS Chicago.
Ging said the loud noise from protestors are driving away business. “It’s very loud. Our customers who traditionally want to sit in here won’t sit in here because they can’t hear themselves,” Ging told CBS.
Hilton Palmer House general manager Dean Lane sent an email to Ging, requesting that she takes down the sign, calling it ironic and unprofessional. “I find it ironic that you place that sign where our guests have access from inside our building,” Dean Lane sent in an email that was released in the Chicago Eater. “My request is that you place that horrid sign which I must add is incredibly unprofessional to the outside door.”
In an interview, Lane allegedly told the Eater he would be ok with the sign if it was a “professionally printed” sign instead of a “shabby copy.”
As hotels continue to find agreements, business may be back to normal if they continue with recent patterns. Workers at six Marriott International hotels and the Hotel Blake in Printers Row have returned to work after reaching an agreement with workers at six properties that were striking.
*To protect Que from facing potential backlash from talking to the press, we allowed Que to only give us just one name.