FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 19
Patrick Griffin, [email protected], 773-812-2491
Sarah Lyons, [email protected], 312-385-0603
Signature Room Workers Rally Support to Get their Jobs Back as 95th & 96th Floors of John Hancock Building Seek New Tenant
Restaurant workers deliver over 1,000 letters to owners of iconic restaurant and lounge space from community members pledging not to patronize the space unless the original workers are brought back.
CHICAGO – Today, workers of the Signature Room and Lounge rallied outside of the offices of the owners of the iconic restaurant space on the 95th and 96th floors of the John Hancock Building to deliver letters of support from the community. Over 1,000 former customers, visitors, and residents have pledged they will only eat and drink at the Signature Room and Lounge space if the original workers are offered their jobs back. The former Signature Room and Lounge space on the 95th and 96th floors of the John Hancock building is available for lease.
“I loved helping people create memories and celebrate milestones. We deserve to have the chance to return to work in the space when it re-opens and bring back the spirit that made the Signature Room special,” said Bob Sorenson who worked as a server for 25 years at the Signature Room.
Workers delivered the petition to PGIM, the owner of the former Signature Room space. Surrounded by supporters holding signs that said, “I Stand with Signature Room Workers,” the restaurant workers served hot cocoa to passersby outside of the Prudential Building where PGIM’s office are located, showcasing the spirit of Chicago hospitality.
“This was my second home. I want to continue to do the work I love with the co-workers who are like my family,” said Irene Luna, a pastry cook with 29 years of service at the Signature Room. “Having so much support from former customers, Chicagoans and visitors feels great. I hope whoever takes over the space will listen to our voices,” Luna continued.
The Signature Room and Lounge closed on September 28th with no notice given to the one hundred and thirty-two restaurant employees represented by UNITE HERE Local 1. The overwhelming majority of terminated Signature Room workers are people of color. They worked as cooks, servers, bartenders, barbacks, concierges, housekeeping attendants, bussers, and expeditors at the venue. One third of the terminated workers had served at the Signature Room for 15 years or more. Eight workers celebrated their 30-year work anniversary this past summer.
“Today, the Signature Room staff and the broader community sent a clear message that these dedicated workers deserve the chance to return to their jobs when the space re-opens. To whoever the new operator in the Signature Room space may be, we urge you to embody the true spirit of Chicago hospitality and welcome these workers back to what was once their second home. We will be watching. This City will be watching,” said Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1.
PGIM is the global asset management business of Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a global investment manager. The Chicago office of PGIM is in the Prudential Building, at Two Prudential Plaza, 180 North Stetson Street, Suite 5600.
On October 2, UNITE HERE Local 1 filed a complaint in federal court against the Signature Room operator alleging a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the WARN Act. The Union also filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor. Under the WARN Act, an employer must provide 60-days written notice of any closing or mass-layoff. Per the Act, in lieu of the 60-days notice, the employer must also provide terminated workers with wages, health insurance benefits, pension benefits, life insurance premiums, accrued holiday pay, and accrued vacation for 60 days after the operation closes and workers are terminated. The complaint outlines the Signature Room operator’s failure to comply with the requirements of the WARN Act and seeks backpay, benefits and other relief under the Act.
On October 16, UNITE HERE Local 1 filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the operator of Signature Room on behalf of terminated workers. The charge alleges that Infusion Management Group failed to give timely notice of the restaurant’s closure in order to allow the Union to bargain over the effects of the closure in a meaningful way, violating federal labor law. The Union seeks a remedy under the NLRB that includes back pay for terminated workers and for the Signature Room’s operator to bargain in good faith.
Both the Unfair Labor Practice charge and the WARN lawsuit are ongoing.