UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area. Local 1 members are the heart of Chicago’s hospitality industry, working in area hotels, restaurants, school cafeterias, stadiums, event centers like McCormick Place and Navy Pier, Chicago’s major airports, and casinos in Northwest Indiana. We are a union of housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, bellmen, food and beverage servers, and dishwashers. Local 1′s parent union, UNITE HERE, represents approximately 300,000 hotel, food service, and gaming workers throughout the United States and Canada.
A Decent Living Standard
Chicago’s hospitality workers are at the core of the city’s economy. In 2007, according to the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, 46.3 million visitors spent $11.5 billion. Hotel tax generated over $60 million in revenue for the City of Chicago.
In recent years, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 have fought to transform low-wage, service-sector jobs into safe, family-sustaining jobs. Our union has dramatically raised the standard for hotel work in Chicago, with housekeeper wages rising from $8.83 an hour in 2002 to $16.40 today. We have also fought for a fair and humane workload, job security, decent pensions, and affordable health insurance. Today, Local 1 hotel workers pay no more than $30 a month for full family health care, preventing the need for workers and their families to rely on publicly funded health care. This stands in stark contrast to the conditions of workers in cities with no union hotels, like Indianapolis, where housekeepers for the same national hotel chains earn $7.50 an hour and pay hundreds for family healthcare coverage.
Despite progress, chronic understaffing and layoffs after years of record profitability in the hospitality industry now threaten to undo these important gains. Hospitality workers are fighting for staffing levels to return as the economy rebounds, to bring people back to work, ensure a humane workload, and maintain high standards for customer service in area hotels.
UNITE HERE Local 1 also represents workers at the Congress Hotel, who have been on strike since June 15, 2003. Now the longest hotel strike in history, the Congress Hotel Strike counts among its many supporters President Barack Obama, who walked the picket line in 2005 and 2007.