Housekeepers On Strike at Chicago’s Hotel Monaco

strikemonacoHousekeepers at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Chicago are on strike today to demand a fair process to organize a union.

They held a rally and press conference today at 11:00 am at Daley Plaza, with union and non-union housekeepers from across Chicago.

Workers at the Hotel Monaco first approached hotel management in November 2014 to demand a fair process to decide on unionization. A fair process is an agreement where the employer pledges not to interfere while employees decide whether or not they would like to join a union. It guarantees no interference or opposition from management.

The Hotel Monaco is among four Chicago hotels operated by Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group. UNITE HERE Local 1 currently represents workers at two Kimpton hotels in the city, the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro. Workers at the Hotel Palomar won a union contract in 2012 after the hotel agreed to a fair process to organize.

In a March survey of 11 out of 21 total housekeepers at the Hotel Monaco by UNITE HERE, 72% said that they regularly have to work during one or more breaks to complete their required tasks. Only two workers reported that their 8.5-hour shift was enough time to clean their rooms and take their required breaks.

“I love my job, but it has been very difficult. I clean sixteen rooms every day. When I get home from work I feel pain all over my body,” says Maricela Gonzalez, a housekeeper at the Hotel Monaco for 15 years and mother of three children.

“Instead of playing with my daughter when I get home, sometimes I collapse on the couch and she helps rub my sore feet because I’m too tired to move.”

In 2014, non-union Hotel Monaco employees like Maricela had to pay at least $1,500 per year for individual health insurance with a $3,000 deductible, or $8,000 per year for family coverage with a $6,000 deductible.

But unionized Kimpton employees in Chicago at the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro pay nothing for individual coverage, or $360 per year for a family plan.

“When we organized, we won the right to a fair process without management interference, and through that process decided that we wanted union representation. After we chose Local 1, we negotiated a contract, and today I pay only $30 per month for health insurance for my whole family,” says Yarmelli Garcia, a lobby attendant at the Hotel Palomar. Yarmelli’s husband Jesus is a striking housekeeping assistant at the Hotel Monaco.

The Hotel Monaco is owned by Xenia Hotels and Resorts (NYSE:XHR), a recently spun-off affiliate of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group was purchased by Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) last December.

UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.