With hundreds of UNITE HERE Local 1 members knocking on doors this election season, the union representing hospitality workers in Chicago helped sway a number of key city council races. The union’s support helped land decisive victories for candidates, most notably Debra Silverstein, who has unseated the longest-serving city council member Bernard Stone (50th).
Early on, Local 1 took aim at the longest-serving alderman, Bernard Stone (50th Ward), who has sided with the Congress Hotel in City Hall against the members Local 1, who have been on strike for nearly 8 years. Members of Local 1—one of the first groups to get behind his opponent Debra Silverstein—knocked on 20,000 doors in the 50th Ward. Their efforts made Silverstein the clear frontrunner among Stone’s opposition in the February election, paving the way for her defeat of Stone in the April run-off elections.
“I could not have gotten this far without UNITE HERE. I have been totally overwhelmed by the support they have provided to us,” says Silverstein.
Overall, UNITE HERE Local 1 provided 500 volunteers to aldermanic campaigns, who knocked on over 50,000 doors. UNITE HERE Local 1 boasts a diverse membership, and was able to provide support to campaigns across Chicago, including reaching out to Latino voters in wards where they are crucial swing voters..
“What’s happened in Arizona and Wisconsin—we don’t want that here,” says Jose Sarabia, a Local 1 canvasser, who works as a server at the Avenue Hotel. “That’s why the participation of the Latino community in these elections is so important.”
UNITE HERE Local 1 focused on candidates who have shown leadership on issues important to its members in the hospitality industry, such as a living wage for airport workers, support for area Hyatt and Congress Hotel boycotts, and the creation of good jobs in public venues like the public schools and McCormick Place.
The union of housekeepers, dishwashers, and cooks represents workers across Chicago’s hospitality industry, including downtown hotel workers, food service workers at area universities, airport service workers at both Chicago airports, and casino workers in Northwest Indiana. The union has made waves in recent months with strikes and demonstrations, taking on hotel heavyweights like Chicago-based Hyatt.