After three years, Local 1 members at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, owned by Sage Hospitality, ratified their first contract this month and got a $96,000 payout for workers who had been fired during the contract campaign. It has been a long haul for hotel workers at the Blackstone, who began organizing to bring the union into the hotel shortly after it reopened in the summer of 2008. Thanks to the determination of strong leaders and great organizers, the union prevailed after a lengthy anti-union campaign by the management of the hotel.
On June 15, 2009, the Blackstone terminated almost all of the top union committee—14 workers total. The union fought the company"s actions, filing charges with the labor board. The organizers" deep relationships with the committee and fired workers inspired many workers to testify before the Labor Board. In a major ruling last summer, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that owners and management of the Blackstone Hotel had illegally fired workers, cut staff benefits, and circulated a petition to decertify the union. The Blackstone Hotel was ordered to offer jobs back to the 14 employees and compensate them with any lost wages and benefits. When the contract was settled, several workers were issued checks from the hotel totaling more than $96,000 in lost wages.
In the end, workers prevailed and settled a great contract with big gains. By the end of the contract, some workers will see their wages increase by $3.00 an hour, and all workers will be eligible for free individual healthcare coverage. The new contract includes some of the best language in Chicago for fair housekeeping workloads.
Over the last several years, many community leaders worked on this campaign. These allies led delegations and spoke with legislators, reminding them of the $47.6 million in taxpayer money given to the Blackstone and the hotel"s promise to stay neutral if workers wanted a union.
We dedicate this victory to LaFrances Rowell, a 27-year-old housekeeper and leader at the Blackstone Hotel, who has been battling breast cancer since the campaign began, while raising three young children as a single parent. Her determination and spirit to continue the fight against all odds is an inspiration to us all.