Hundreds join Congress Hotel Strikers at 8th Anniversary Rally

Today, strikers at the Congress Hotel, joined by hundreds of community supporters and members of UNITE HERE Local 1, are rallying outside the Congress Hotel to commemorate the 8th Anniversary of the Congress Hotel Strike, now the longest hotel strike in American history.

On June 15, 2003, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 working at the Congress Hotel went out on strike after the hotel decided to freeze wages until 2010, refused to pay healthcare premiums for its employees (effectively eliminating employee healthcare benefits), and demanded the ability to subcontract out all bargaining unit work at the hotel.

Since the time that negotiations began, the Congress Hotel has never offered a proposal with increases in wages or the company’s share of healthcare costs from the rates listed in the contract that expired in 2002. The last bargaining session was in the summer of 2010. The union will be in negotiations with the Congress Hotel again in early July 2011.

“This fight is my life,” says Rene Patino, who worked at the Congress Hotel for three years before the strike began and has been on strike with his wife Maria. “If we quit with the strike, I know that the other hotels would take the same position as the Congress. Wages are still around $8 an hour and they don’t want to have any responsibility to the workers at all.”

There are about 60 active remaining strikers, who both actively picket the Congress hotel and have led a campaign statewide to bring an end to the Congress Hotel Strike. Working families in Chicago have made astounding gains in recent years because the Congress strikers have refused to settle for substandard wages. At the time that the strike began, Chicago housekeepers were making just $8.83 an hour, compared to $15.10 an hour today. To ensure that hotel jobs in this city are strong, family-sustaining jobs, Congress strikers have taken the fight to the streets of Chicago and all over the world.

UNITE HERE Local 1, the union representing hotel workers in downtown Chicago has recently reached citywide agreements with Starwood Hotels and Hilton Worldwide after. The settlements effectively resolve all hotel contract disputes in Chicago, except those with the Congress and Hyatt Hotels.