One Day Longer. That’s what they say on the picket line when you ask when a strike will end. The dedication to the cause continues on until a just contract can finally settle a dispute between employer and workers. For nine years now, workers from Congress Hotel in Chicago have walked the picket line in a struggle for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.
By now most of the workers have moved onto others jobs but remain invested in the fight. They spend an hour or two before and/or after work on the picket line and come home to their families. You may ask a common question, why?
“I hope it helps them,” said Imelda Martinez, a former Congress Hotel housekeeper. “We fight for our benefits, for fair pay, and justice.”
Martinez has struggled to balance family life, work at another hotel, and the strike. Her son served in the Army and did a tour in Iraq. She hopes the strike will end one day on a positive note.
Workers in other Chicagoland hotels know a fight is also coming their way. Just weeks after Unite HERE Local 1 and Congress Hotel celebrate a tenth anniversary, the union will be embroiled in contract negotiations with the other hotel chains. Mark your calendars now. August 31, 2013.
The fight pushes on not for a few dozen service workers at one hotel but for a city full of service workers. Workers that ensure a clean place to stay for the entire tourism industry that Chicago needs. A unionized workforce provides rules to keep employees safe as much as it provides guidelines on keeping rooms clean. Nonunion places overwork their employees and push housekeepers to clean a room in 15 minutes or less. Disgusting if you ask me.
Chicago housekeepers were making just $8.83 an hour when the strike began but now earn $15.70 an hour, according to Unite HERE.
“The sacrifice the strikers have made to go out on the line daily speaks to not only their dedication, but to the intense belief these individuals have for what they’re doing,” said Henry Tamarin, Unite HERE Local 1 President, in a statement. “The strikers know third dedication to the boycott will help working families now and in the future.”
In 2003, the Congress Hotel tried to freeze employee wages, eliminate healthcare benefits, and demanded the ability to outsource the work done by union employees. It was a power grab that the workers refused to allow as they walked out on June 15, 2003.
“[The hotel owner] doesn’t want to pay anything. We have to keep fighting. Every time it is the same thing but we want to get a contract. We’ve been fighting for eight years. We are not going to give up and say alright we lost,” declared Guadalupe Perez in an interview last fall.
Chicago-based rapper, Young General, performed his song dedicated to the efforts of the strikers. He teamed up with Columbia College students to produce the music video below:
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