For immediate release
September 1, 2009
Contracts expire for 6,000 union hotel workers in Chicago
Fed up with Cuts, Workers Put Hotels on Notice: "We Won't Sacrifice Our Health for Corporate Profit?
Union contracts covering 30 hotels and more than 6,000 workers in downtown Chicago expired on August 31, 2009. Contract negotiations between UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago`s hospitality workers union, and the area`s largest hotel employers, Hyatt, Hilton, and Starwood, began earlier this month and remain far from settlement.
After months of layoffs and chronic understaffing, workers are now criticizing area employers for contributing to the region`s unemployment problem. After years of record profitability in the hotel industry, big corporations like Hyatt and Hilton have used the tough economy as an excuse to lay off workers, cut guest services, and create burdensome working conditions for workers who remain.
To give one local example, the Hyatt Regency Chicago laid off 199 of its 1020 workers (19.5%) from November 2008 to March 2009, while 46% of its staff worked overtime between January and April 2009, according to the Union. Room attendants at the Hyatt were scheduled to work a total of 2078.75 hours of overtime during this same period of time, while dozens of housekeepers had no work at all, according to the Union.
"I have been scheduled to work overtime, while my daughter has spent months on layoff," says Adela Guzman, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, whose daughter Daniela Guzman also works in Hyatt housekeeping department. "Housekeeping is such hard work, and I live in pain because I`m doing the job of two people. I`m fighting, because the company is profiting from my family`s misfortune."
Nationwide, the hotel industry has maintained its fundamental profitability in recent years by squeezing workers. History shows that hotels may refuse to bring people back to work, even as the economy rebounds. Nationwide, hotels cut staff by 17% when tourism was down after 9/11-and never brought those jobs back when profits soared in the years to follow, according to Wachovia Equity Research.
Hotel workers are now calling on employers to restore jobs and join with workers to ensure that jobs in Chicago`s hospitality industry, which can`t be exported overseas, remain safe, family-sustaining jobs that can help rebuild our economy from the ground up.
UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago`s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.