After many months of bargaining, UNITE HERE and Hilton Worldwide have reached tentative settlements in three major markets—Chicago, San Francisco, and Honolulu. The agreements signal a major breakthrough in citywide hotel negotiations nationally and a path forward for hotel workers as the hospitality industry emerges from the recession. In Chicago, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 ratified the contracts, affecting 1600 workers from the Drake, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Hilton, and Hilton O’Hare, on Friday, March 4.
While terms of the settlements vary in each city, the contracts include wage increases, improved job stability language, and reduced workloads for housekeeping staff and others. Significantly, the new contracts also preserve low-cost, high-quality healthcare and pension benefits for Hilton workers and their families at a time when nationwide these employee benefits are being cut.
“Of course our health insurance is important, but for me I’m also really happy that were able to maintain a reasonable room quota for housekeepers,” says Claudia Virto, a room attendant at the Hilton Chicago. “Housekeeping work is difficult, but the changes we’ve made together with Hilton will reduce the chance of injuries and ensure that I will continue to have a job.”
“This settlement is good for Chicago, good for Hilton and good for our members,” says Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE HERE Local 1.
Hilton workers are among 6,500 other hotel workers in downtown Chicago and over 1500 hotel workers near O’Hare airport that have been in contract negotiations since August of 2009. The settlement with Hilton brings newfound stability to three major hospitality markets, which have faced protracted disputes with other major employers, including Hyatt Hotels (NYSE: H) and Starwood.
“We are pleased to have achieved a fair settlement for all sides—one that allows workers to move forward and share in the robust recovery that the hotel industry is experiencing,” says John Wilhelm, President of UNITE HERE. “We applaud Hilton for leading the way and upholding a decent standard for service workers in the hospitality industry.”
Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8% annually from 2010 through 2014. Bargaining continues for contracts affecting thousands more hotel workers in Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu and several other cities across North America.