Hotel workers reach five-year settlement with Hilton Hotels before contract expiration

4-24 HiltonUNITE HERE Local 1 and Local 450 have reached a contract settlement with Hilton Hotels preempting the expiration of current contracts, which expire on August 31, 2013. The agreement covers over 600 workers from the Drake, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Hilton, and Hilton O’Hare. Hilton is the first major hotel employer to step forward to reach a settlement with workers, presenting a path forward for hotel workers and other hotel companies in Chicago.

The new five year agreement improves job security and provides economic improvements for hotel workers and their families. Hilton workers are among over 6,000 hotel workers in Chicago and area suburbs whose contracts are set to expire this year. The settlement with Hilton is a departure from the last round of protracted citywide negotiations that lasted two years.

“This is a positive step for the hotel industry in which Hilton is leading,” said UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin.  “We’re coming off very strong contracts from 2009, and this is a continuation of a decade of work to achieve middle class jobs for hotel workers in the City.”

A tentative agreement has been reached with Starwood Hotels, and workers at Hyatt hotels have been without a contract since August 31, 2009. Since that time, Hyatt workers have taken numerous actions, including strikes and the launch of a global boycott in response to unsafe working conditions for hotel housekeepers and Hyatt’s practice of subcontracting jobs.

“It’s refreshing that we’ve been able to reach an agreement without a lengthy battle. Hyatt workers have been without a contract for four years,” said Flavio Gonzalez, Hilton server. “Now, in Hyatt’s hometown, Hilton has settled before our contract even expired. Hyatt has a lot to learn from Hilton.”

In the last decade, hotel workers who are members of UNITE HERE Local 1 have made significant gains in wages and benefits. Workers receive low-cost, high-quality healthcare, which is free for individuals and only $30 a month for families. Chicago housekeepers went from making just $8.83 an hour in 2002 to $16.40 an hour today.