About UNITE HERE Local 1
Who are we?
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Our members work in hotels, O’Hare and Midway airports, restaurants, school cafeterias, stadiums, convention centers like McCormick Place and Navy Pier, and casinos. We are a union of housekeepers, lunchroom attendants, cooks, bartenders, bellmen, servers, and dishwashers. We are predominantly women, immigrants, and people of color.
Local 1 is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, which represents approximately 300,000 hotel, food service, and gaming workers throughout the United States and Canada. UNITE HERE is among the fastest growing unions in the nation.
Local 1’s Elected Leadership
Karen Kent, President
In 2013 Karen Kent was elected as the first woman president in the century-long history of UNITE HERE Local 1 .
Karen got her start in the hospitality industry more than 20 years ago, working as a server at various restaurants and hotels. In the late 1980s, as a banquet server and union committee at the Holiday Inn in Palo Alto, California, she began organizing the union. Since that time, Karen has led campaigns with UNITE HERE in California, Las Vegas, New York, Dallas, Chicago and beyond.
During her tenure with Local 1, Karen has played a key role in leading the transformation of Local 1 into a dynamic organization that has achieved significant victories on behalf of working people in Chicago. In the last decade, Local 1 has organized thousands of new workers into the union and doubled wages for housekeepers and other hotel workers in Chicago’s hospitality industry.
Lou Weeks, Executive Vice President
In 2013 Lou Weeks was elected Executive Vice President of UNITE HERE Local 1. In addition to being the Executive Vice President, Lou serves as Local 1’s Staff Director.
Lou got his start in the labor movement as a student supporter of UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35 at Yale University. After graduation in 1988, Lou was hired as an organizer by Local 34 where he led contract campaigns for secretaries and technicians at Yale.
In 2004, Lou transferred to Chicago and began organizing non-union hotel workers, leading campaigns that at the Westin River North and the Amalfi Hotel. As an organizing director at Local 1, Lou helped lead the Local Hyatt campaign and contract drives for workers in the regional food service industry. During that time, Lou played a key role in helping thousands of service workers at O’Hare Airport, area university cafeterias and hotels in low-wage service-sector jobs secure decent wages and affordable family health insurance.