Housekeepers Rally for Affordable Healthcare at the Hotel Burnham

For immediate release
July 8, 2016
Contact: Jordan Fein
(312) 576-5048
jfein@unitehere.org

Housekeepers Rally for Affordable Healthcare at the Hotel Burnham

Workers at hotel owned by $39 billion private equity firm Lone Star Funds rely on public aid for family healthcare

CHICAGO– After overwhelmingly voting to unionize, housekeepers at the Hotel Burnham are holding a rush hour downtown demonstration for improvements to health insurance. Workers are calling on Lone Star Funds, the private equity giant that owns the hotel, to provide affordable healthcare for families currently relying on public aid for basic coverage.

Housekeepers from the Burnham and other downtown hotels will rally outside the hotel (1 W. Washington St) at 4:30 pm on Friday. The workers are demanding the hotel agree to a union contract with the same affordable family health care and other benefits provided to union members at other Chicago hotels.

“My husband and I don’t have health insurance because the hotel’s plan is too expensive, and my children Angel and Angela are on public aid,” said housekeeper Karina Tufino, who has worked for the Burnham for 10 years. “Why should taxpayers have to pay for my family’s insurance?”

According to a survey conducted by Local 1 in April 2016, 64 percent of Burnham housekeepers, or 7 of 11 surveyed, relied on public aid to provide health care to their children. The Burnham’s most affordable family health plan can cost an employee over $9,000 annually in premiums and deductibles. Most unionized hotel workers pay $360 per year for BlueChoice family health care, or $30 per month and no annual deductible.

Burnham housekeepers and allies held a rally in October 2015 questioning what management had done to reduce physical stressors for housekeepers. Last fall, a survey of Burnham housekeepers found that all respondents reported experiencing pain at work. 63% of surveyed housekeepers said that their pain has prevented them from participating in family activities.

Lone Star Funds, the hotel’s owner, had $39.6 billion in assets under management as of April 2016. Lone Star has faced scrutiny for buying distressed home mortgages from government entities and then foreclosing on borrowers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has pressured the agencies to stop selling the loans to banks and funds that “were responsible for fueling the housing bubble in the first place—leading to the crash that hit these families like a punch to the gut.”

The Burnham is operated by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Intimidation by Kimpton managers at the Burnham and Monaco hotels prompted the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file complaints against the company in April 2015 and January 2016. The Burnham continues to face prosecution by the NLRB General Counsel for firing server Evan Demma two weeks after he participated in a union protest.

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UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.

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