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   Vol.66/No.33           September 2, 2002  
Chicago hotel workers
gear up for strike
Chicago--More than 4,000 hotel workers, members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) union, locals 1 and 450, turned out for mass meetings August 12 over their contract fight. Ninety-eight percent of those present voted to authorize the negotiating committee to call a strike if their demands for wage increases, lower health-care costs, and other issues are not met by the end of the month. The meeting was translated into Chinese, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.

Spirits were high as workers streamed into the Cadillac Palace Theater in downtown Chicago where they were met by chanting, clapping co-workers and supporters of the union.

In the past 10 years, hourly wages for hotel workers have risen by an average of a dollar or less. "We’ve decided we’re going on strike, we’ve had enough of miserable wages, enough of the employers getting richer," said Nancy Carrasco, who works at the Fairmont Hotel.

Chicago hotel workers earn significantly less than their counterparts in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, and Los Angeles. They pay $85 per month for health insurance, higher than in these other cities and unaffordable for many.

The contract covers almost 7,000 union workers, including housekeepers, food servers, kitchen staff, bell staff, and telephone operators from 24 downtown and five suburban hotels.

In gearing up for a possible strike in September, the union has launched a canned food drive and has announced that workers will receive $200 in weekly strike pay. So far their strike fund has received pledges of more than $250,000 from unions around the country.

The Teamsters have provided a warehouse to store the food. Engineering, maintenance, truck driving, and electrical workers unions, whose members also work in these hotels, have pledged to honor the hotel workers’ picket lines.

A rally to support the hotel workers will be held August 23 at 5:00 p.m. on Michigan Avenue by the Chicago Tribune building. For more information contact HERE Local 1, 55 W. Van Buren, Chicago, Illinois 60605, telephone: (312) 663-4373.

Chessie Molano is the Socialist Workers Party candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois and a member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.
Related article:
Hotel workers mark 75 days on strike  
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