Hundreds of workers protest at Chicago O’Hare Airport

For Immediate Release

Contact Carly Karmel,
312-933-40545 ckarmel@unitehere1.org

Airport workers frustrated over lack of response by city officials for job protections

As the city gets closer to signing new deals that will jeopardize over 1,500 Chicago jobs, hundreds of airport concessions workers and allies held an action at the Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1 departures area on Thursday, May 10, calling for city officials to move forward on measures that would improve the quality and stability of airport jobs. Actions on Thursday come in the wake of recent firings at the airport and more than two years of asking city officials to put in place job protections and a living wage for airport workers.

Much of the food and retail concessions at both O’Hare and Midway Airports are set to undergo a redevelopment overhaul in the coming months, a transition process that will affect over 1,500 workers and over $200 million in annual revenues. Redevelopment at other major U.S. airports, such as JFK in New York and Cleveland Hopkins International in Ohio, has been accompanied by labor harmony and worker protection procedures to ensure a smooth transition to new concessions operations. Chicago has, thus far, failed to implement such measures.

“I’m proud of the customer service I provide to Chicago travelers,” said Maria Iniguez-Villalobos, a food server at O’Hare. “But, I depend on my job. If I lose my job, how am I going to put food on the table? How will I help pay for my kids’ college?”

Earlier this year, Chicago’s airport concessions transition process was put to the test as operations at O’Hare Terminal 5 were taken over by new companies. This transition resulted in more than half of the existing retail concessions workforce losing their jobs. Now, as upcoming transitions threaten the careers of hundreds of Chicagoans, many of them are feeling the pressure.

“There’s too much at stake for us to let this process move forward without a thoughtful worker transition,” said Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “Airport workers need to know their jobs are secure. If they got it done at airports in Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles and so many other cities, then I know it can be done here in Chicago.”

Chicago Public Schools agrees with lunch workers, moves toward fresh food!

For Immediate Release

Contact Carly Karmel,
312-933-40545 ckarmel@unitehere1.org

Over the past four months, Chicago’s lunchroom workers have spoken with parents across the city about their vision for the food served to Chicago’s schoolchildren. The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 1, also took their vision for freshly cooked food to the bargaining table. Today, in a landmark agreement, the workers and the Chicago Board of Education signed a new union contract that begins to ensure Chicago’s kids will eat fresh food for years to come.

In addition to important improvements in wages, protecting health care and job security, the contract begins to change the food model in Chicago’s schools by halting any expansion of “frozen food” schools.

The lunchroom workers’ “Let’s Cook” campaign, part of Real Foods Real Jobs, had drawn particular attention to the increasing use of frozen, pre-plated meals in the schools. Now, with the exception of one school, the Board of Education has committed to stop transitioning schools from cooking to “warming” kitchens. This victory ensures many Chicago children avoid a future school diet of reheated frozen food and highlights the positive changes possible when frontline workers and administrators collaborate.

“This is a great victory because our voice was heard. We have not only stopped the expansion of frozen food in our schools but also maintained our benefits and our jobs,” said Constance Hatchett, a 12-year CPS lunchroom cook from Hope Academy.

As part of this agreement, CPS will actively solicit and incorporate input from lunchroom workers. A “Good Food Committee,” with representatives from both the Board of Education and frontline workers, will meet monthly to identify best practices regarding healthy food. A bi-annual survey of lunchroom workers will also be conducted to ensure worker input on menu or program changes in schools.

“We’re proud that the lunchroom workers brought the issue of palatable, freshly prepared food to the table,” said Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “It’s a fair settlement but we still have some work to do with the Board of Education. There are still some students in the system subjected to pre-packaged, frozen food every day from the time they start kindergarten to the time they leave 8th grade. All students deserve freshly prepared food.”

The 5-year agreement covers more than 3,200 lunchroom workers who prepare and serve over 77,000 breakfasts and 280,000 lunches every day in over 600 schools. Lunchroom workers ratified the contract on April 28 and look forward to further efforts to ensure Chicago’s kids are fed the food they deserve.

Hundreds picket Hyatt HQ, protesting threats to cancel healthcare

For Immediate Release

Contact Carly Karmel,
312-933-40545 ckarmel@unitehere1.org

Thousands could lose coverage under Hyatt’s proposal; Clergy denounce Hyatt’s “harsh tactics”
Hundreds of hotel workers and allies are picketing at Hyatt’s global headquarters today in protest of Hyatt’s proposal to strip health insurance from Chicago hotel workers and their families after more than two years of contract negotiations. Bargaining between Hyatt and the members of UNITE HERE Local 1 hit a turning point in late November after Hyatt threatened to cut off health benefits unless workers give up their fight and abandon their boycotts. Now hotel workers, religious leaders, and health advocates are calling on the company to withdraw its threat to Chicago workers. If Hyatt refuses, thousands of workers and members of their families in Chicago could lose health insurance at the end of February.

“If they take our health insurance away, my kids will suffer,” says Jacqueline Smith, who has worked in the housekeeping department of the Hyatt McCormick Place for the last 10 years and is a single mother of five children—thre e with special needs. “I have heart problems and high blood pressure. If I don’t get my medication or they take away my breathing machine, then I can’t support my family.”
On November 21, 2011, Hyatt negotiators first officially informed the Union of their intent to cut health benefits, with an insurance cut-off going into effect on December 31, 2011. On November 29, Hyatt officials informed the Union that they would postpone the cut-off date by 60 days, extending coverage until the end of February.

In the last two years of contract negotiations, Hyatt has refused to budge on crucial demands to curb subcontracting and ease working conditions for housekeepers—demands met by Hilton and other hotel employers citywide. In response, Hyatt workers have held several limited-duration strikes and called for boycotts of their hotels. Over $20 million in group bookings have pulled out from boycotted Hyatt hotels nationwide.

“According to Jewish tradition, preventing the healing of the sick is akin to shedding blood,” says Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, IL, who is participating in today’s protests. “It is truly a shandeh that Hyatt would stoop to these unacceptably harsh tactics as a negotiating ploy.”

This is not the first instance of Hyatt’s labor controversies. In July, Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers at the Park Hyatt Chicago during a brutal heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with temporary workers earning minimum wage.

UNITE HERE Local 1 and Local 450 represent approximately 1,500 workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt, Hyatt McCormick Place, and Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Contracts for area Hyatt workers expired on August 31, 2009. Since then, area Hyatt workers have carried out several limited duration strikes and other demonstrations, including a weeklong strike in September 2011.

Hyatt threatens to cut off workers’ healthcare

For Immediate Release

Contact Carly Karmel,
312-933-40545 ckarmel@unitehere1.org

Negotiations hit crisis; Thousands could lose coverage under Hyatt’s proposal

After more than two years of bargaining, contract negotiations between Hyatt Hotels and members of UNITE HERE Local 1 hit a crisis point last Monday when Hyatt threatened to cut off health benefits unless workers give up their fight and abandon their boycotts. In response, hotel workers, religious leaders, and health advocates are holding a press conference in front of Hyatt Hotels’ global headquarters to denounce Hyatt for forcing workers to choose between their families’ immediate medical needs and a fight for their long-term survival.

“My son has suffered from chronic ear problems ever since he was a baby and is scheduled to go into surgery this month. Now Hyatt is asking me to decide between my son’s health and a future where I could lose my job,” says Cristian Toro, who has worked as a banquet server at the Hyatt McCormick Place for eight years.

On November 21, 2011, Hyatt negotiators first officially informed the Union of their intent to cut health benefits, with an insurance cut-off going into effect on December 31, 2011. On Tuesday evening, November 29, Hyatt officials informed the Union that they would postpone the cut-off date by 60 days, extending coverage until the end of February.

In the last two years of contract negotiations, Hyatt has refused to budge on crucial demands to curb subcontracting and ease working conditions for housekeepers—demands met by Hilton and other hotel employers citywide. In response, Hyatt workers have held several limited-duration strikes and called for boycotts of their hotels. Over $20 million in group bookings have pulled out from boycotted Hyatt hotels nationwide.

This is not the first instance of Hyatt’s labor controversies. In July, Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers at the Park Hyatt Chicago during a brutal heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with temporary workers earning minimum wage.

“It’s obscene to use the right to healthcare as a bargaining point,” says Dr. Quentin Young, a healthcare advocate who was once the personal physician of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “In this economy, to throw healthcare costs on workers on top of everything else is unfair. As a doctor I call on all medical professionals to honor the Hyatt boycotts.”

UNITE HERE Local 1 and Local 450 represent approximately 1,500 workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt, Hyatt McCormick Place, and Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Contracts for area Hyatt workers expired on August 31, 2009. Since then, area Hyatt workers have carried out several limited duration strikes and other demonstrations, including a weeklong strike in September 2011.

UNITE HERE Local 1 joins other CPS staff and service unions to issue statement of support for teachers

For Immediate Release

Contact Carly Karmel,
312-933-40545 ckarmel@unitehere1.org

UNITE HERE Local 1 joins other CPS staff and service unions to issue statement of support for teachers, calling for “respectful” dialogue to improve schools

In recent weeks, the Board of Education has waged a fierce attack in the media on teachers represented by CTU Local 1 in the Chicago Public School system, focused primarily on the length of the school day.

Now-in a show of support for CPS teachers-Local 1 and other unions representing thousands of service and support staff at CPS are calling for an end to the Board’s confrontational rhetoric. In a press conference today, these unions released a statement, encouraging instead a more respectful dialogue and collaboration with staff who work directly with our city’s children to achieve improvements in the quality of education in Chicago Public Schools.

Unions participating who released a statement represent thousands of service and support staff at the school, such as custodians, lunchroom workers, aides, security guards and engineers, who will also face separate contract negotiations with the Board of Education in coming months. UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin and Local 1 member Linda Green, a lunchroom worker at Chicago Public Schools, both spoke at the press conference.

Local 1 was one of 5 unions that signed on to the following statement to the
Board of Education:
“We represent the employees of Chicago Public Schools who are not teachers. We are the Aides, Security Guards, Custodians, Engineers, Lunchroom Workers and all the other workers who are responsible for Chicago’s children from the moment they step on to the school grounds in the morning until they leave at the end of the day.

We are professionals who make sure that the school buildings work, are clean, that our children our safe and that they are fed. When it comes to Chicago’s kids, we are where the rubber meets road.

We’re proud of the work we do and think that the children of Chicago are serious business and should be treated in that fashion. We ask that the Board of Education take a more constructive and serious approach with us on addressing our mutual issues.

The Administration thus far has chosen to engage in a media campaign against the teachers, rather than thoughtful negotiations, to the detriment of the entire community. We are all in this together, and are all in this for the children that we are here to support. There has yet to be a proposal from the administration across the bargaining table for a longer school day – we first read about it in the newspaper rather than hearing about it from the administrations’ negotiators.

We didn’t create the length of the school day, the Board of Education did. We’re willing to negotiate extending the school day, but this takes good faith negotiations, not more Board of Education press statements and confrontational rhetoric and tactics. Our children deserve a more respectful and thoughtful approach.”

Campus Dining Workers at Loyola University Chicago Win Union

Chicago – After months of organizing, over 200 campus dining workers at Loyola University Chicago have won union representation, choosing to join UNITE HERE Local 1.

“I feel blessed. A union means a better life for me and my family,” said Janet Irving, a Loyola campus dining worker and member of the worker organizing committee that had been building support for the union at Loyola, one of the leading Catholic Jesuit universities in the nation.

In October, a majority of Loyola campus dining workers, with support from Loyola faculty, students, and clergy approached the employer about a fair process to choose a union. The company agreed to a process and recognized UNITE HERE Local 1 on Tuesday, November 16th.

The campus dining workforce at Loyola comes from all over the world, with 16 different countries of origin. Many dining workers at Loyola have served the student and faculty community for decades.

With UNITE HERE, the Loyola workers join the leading union of food service workers in North America, joining dining workers from over 100 campuses across the United States and Canada. In Chicago, the Loyola workers join dining workers at DePaul University who are also members of UNITE HERE Local 1 and recently won a great new contract, which included significant improvements in wages and healthcare benefits as well as protections for immigrant workers.

The worker organizing committee at Loyola will enter into contract negotiations with their employer in the coming months. For now, they are celebrating. “I love taking care of the students in the dining halls, and I feel great that now I will get to do it as a union member,” Loyola dining service worker Eva Rangel said.


UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana. UNITE HERE represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.

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Hilton workers strike, protesting $180M Hilton bailout

Chicago workers join wave of Hilton strikes seeking to “Share the Recovery”

(Chicago, IL) – Citywide union hotel contracts expired more than a year ago, and today hotel workers at the Chicago Hilton are walking off the job, launching a three-day strike protesting Hilton’s efforts to lock workers into the recession. Outraged that Hilton finagled $180 million in bailout funds but is still squeezing workers, hundreds are picketing today, wearing signs that read “Taxpayers on Strike”. The strike in Chicago join strikes at the world’s largest Hiltons in Honolulu and San Francisco, which began earlier this week.

Hilton Worldwide, owned by one of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms – Blackstone – is taking unfair advantage of its workers and the American taxpayers. Hilton got $180 million of bailout funds not meant for wealthy hotel owners when the Federal Reserve wrote off some debt Hilton owed U.S. taxpayers. Meanwhile, Hilton wants lock workers into cheap recession contracts even as hotels rebound.

Hilton is on the forefront in the hotel industry in Chicago this contract cycle of pushing a program that would dramatically increase the room quota for housekeepers, lowering the standard of cleanliness for guests, speeding up work, and eliminating jobs. Given the physical nature of the work, such a speed up could result in more injuries for housekeepers who already face difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions.

“Hilton’s business is coming back, but it seems like they want housekeepers like me to live in the recession forever,” says Sherri Steverson, a room attendant at the Chicago Hilton downtown, one of Hilton Hotels’ largest owned hotels. “The bailout money was supposed to protect jobs, but Hilton is destroying them. I already have to take pain medication to get through the day, and the room-cleaning increases that Hilton is proposing for housekeepers at my hotel just might break me all together. ”

The striking workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 1, and include housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, bell staff, food servers, and others. Hilton workers are among 8,000 other hotel workers in the Chicago area whose contracts expired on August 31, 2009. In August 2010, Hilton workers in Chicago voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike at 4 area properties – the Chicago Hilton, Hilton O’Hare, the Palmer House Hilton, and the Drake, with 96% of union members voting in favor of a strike. The Chicago Hilton and Hilton O’Hare are owned by Hilton and all four are Hilton-managed.

“An issue of deep concern to Chicago, which has faced a loss of convention business in the last year, is Hilton’s introduction of a dramatic increase to the housekeeping workload—what we call the “Dirty Rooms” program,” says UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin. “Despite having benefited from millions in taxpayer dollars, Hilton’s proposals threaten to lower the standard for cleanliness and guest service at one of the city’s premiere convention hotel properties.”

Blackstone Group [NYSE: BX] manages $100 billion in assets for large pension funds and other investors around the country. Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8% annually from 2010 through 2014. Despite trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are refusing to share that recovery with workers.


UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.
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