Ordinance to Protect Chicago Hotel Workers from Sexual Harassment and Assault Passes the Committee on Workforce Development, Advances to full City Council

Nora Cay Ryan                                                                              Sarah Lyons
Chicago Federation of Labor                                                     UNITE HERE Local 1
847‐826‐2061                                                                                312-385-0603
ncryan@chicagolabor.org                                                          slyons@unitehere.org

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2017

Ordinance to Protect Chicago Hotel Workers from Sexual Harassment and Assault Passes the Committee on Workforce Development, Advances to full City Council

Ordinance will help ensure hotel workers have panic buttons and other safety measures to protect against sexual violence by guests

(CHICAGO, IL) Today, the Committee on Workforce Development, chaired by 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor, recommended approval of the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance to protect Chicago hotel workers, the majority of whom are women of color and immigrants, from sexual harassment and assault. With the Committee’s recommendation for approval, the ordinance will advance to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

The Chicago Federation of Labor and UNITE HERE Local 1 worked with Alderman Harris to develop the ordinance. The ordinance covers all Chicago hotel workers, whether union or non-union, and requires hotels to provide panic buttons to housekeepers and other hotel workers who work alone in guest rooms and restrooms. The ordinance also protects hotel workers from retaliation when they report sexual violence by guests and requires hotels to implement an anti-sexual harassment policy.

Alderman Harris introduced the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance in April 2017 after a survey of 487 women working in Chicagoland hotels and casinos revealed wide-spread sexual harassment by hotel guests. The survey findings were published in a report[i] by UNITE HERE Local 1 in October 2016. The survey found:

  • 58 percent of hotel workers surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a guest.
  • 49 percent of hotel housekeepers surveyed said guests had exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked.

The following quotes were included in today’s testimony.

“No one should ever have to know what this kind of abuse feels like. Unfortunately, these issues are not confined to this industry; it happens to women across all industries. Every day, the labor movement fights for dignity and respect in the workplace, and we fight for every worker’s right to a safe and secure work environment. The CFL is here today to stand with hotel workers and to let this committee know that we are committed to fighting sexual harassment and abuse in all industries.”
–        Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor

“I’m proud and humbled to have helped make this ordinance a reality today. These workers are our friends and neighbors and deserve to feel safe at their jobs.”
–        Alderman Michelle Harris, 8th Ward

“Having a panic button would make me feel safer. To know I can easily call for help if something happens would be such a relief. I’m here today not just for myself but for my co-workers. We deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe at work.”
–        Cecilia, a Chicago hotel worker

“Today’s advancement of the ‘Hands Off Pants On’ ordinance brings us one step closer to breaking the silence, shame and stigma around sexual violence in the workplace. The ordinance creates urgently needed protections for Chicago hotel workers; for the immigrants, the women of color, the people who clean, cook, and serve for our city every day.”
–        Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1, the hospitality workers union

“While progress has been made, thanks to the work of courageous survivors and the determined advocacy of groups like Women Employed, sexual harassment continues to be a barrier to women’s economic advancement. In the case of those women doing low-wage work, the stakes are often higher, leaving them particularly vulnerable and forcing them to choose between their families’ livelihoods and their safety, health and dignity. It’s a choice no worker should have to make.”
–        Sharmili Majmudar, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Women Employed

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The Chicago Federation of Labor is the third‐largest central labor council of the AFL‐CIO in the United States representing approximately 300 local unions comprised of over half a million union members in Chicago and Cook County.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 15,000 hospitality and food service workers in the City of Chicago and surrounding area.

Founded in 1973, Women Employed’s mission is to improve women’s economic status and remove barriers to economic equity.

Hotel Monaco Workers Ratify First Contract

monaco-picFor Immediate Release
June 16, 2017
Contact: Elliott Mallen, 312-656-5807

Hotel Monaco Workers Ratify First Contract

Hotel housekeepers at the downtown Hotel Monaco today unanimously ratified their first collective bargaining agreement. The five-year accord covering thirty workers comes nearly three years after workers first began organizing a union at the hotel.

The contract includes most standard provisions of downtown hotel contracts. Notably, workers will receive full-family health insurance for only $30 per month by 2019, and will in the meantime receive annual bonuses to help cover health insurance costs.

“I’m very excited to finally have a contract,” said Maria Alvarado, a room attendant at the hotel for 17 years. “I hope other non-union hotel workers see what we’ve accomplished by organizing, and join us too.”

Workers won a hotly contested NLRB election in December 2015, and had been negotiating a contract since. The settlement comes as unionized workers at Pineapple Hospitality’s Hotel Alise (formerly Hotel Burnham) continue to negotiate their first contract.




Housekeepers Rally for Affordable Healthcare at the Hotel Burnham

For immediate release
July 8, 2016
Contact: Jordan Fein
(312) 576-5048

Housekeepers Rally for Affordable Healthcare at the Hotel Burnham

Workers at hotel owned by $39 billion private equity firm Lone Star Funds rely on public aid for family healthcare

CHICAGO– After overwhelmingly voting to unionize, housekeepers at the Hotel Burnham are holding a rush hour downtown demonstration for improvements to health insurance. Workers are calling on Lone Star Funds, the private equity giant that owns the hotel, to provide affordable healthcare for families currently relying on public aid for basic coverage.

Housekeepers from the Burnham and other downtown hotels will rally outside the hotel (1 W. Washington St) at 4:30 pm on Friday. The workers are demanding the hotel agree to a union contract with the same affordable family health care and other benefits provided to union members at other Chicago hotels.

“My husband and I don’t have health insurance because the hotel’s plan is too expensive, and my children Angel and Angela are on public aid,” said housekeeper Karina Tufino, who has worked for the Burnham for 10 years. “Why should taxpayers have to pay for my family’s insurance?”

According to a survey conducted by Local 1 in April 2016, 64 percent of Burnham housekeepers, or 7 of 11 surveyed, relied on public aid to provide health care to their children. The Burnham’s most affordable family health plan can cost an employee over $9,000 annually in premiums and deductibles. Most unionized hotel workers pay $360 per year for BlueChoice family health care, or $30 per month and no annual deductible.

Burnham housekeepers and allies held a rally in October 2015 questioning what management had done to reduce physical stressors for housekeepers. Last fall, a survey of Burnham housekeepers found that all respondents reported experiencing pain at work. 63% of surveyed housekeepers said that their pain has prevented them from participating in family activities.

Lone Star Funds, the hotel’s owner, had $39.6 billion in assets under management as of April 2016. Lone Star has faced scrutiny for buying distressed home mortgages from government entities and then foreclosing on borrowers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has pressured the agencies to stop selling the loans to banks and funds that “were responsible for fueling the housing bubble in the first place—leading to the crash that hit these families like a punch to the gut.”

The Burnham is operated by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Intimidation by Kimpton managers at the Burnham and Monaco hotels prompted the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file complaints against the company in April 2015 and January 2016. The Burnham continues to face prosecution by the NLRB General Counsel for firing server Evan Demma two weeks after he participated in a union protest.


UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.

At Rainbow PUSH Conference, UNITE HERE Local 1 Urges Chicago: Rename McCormick Square

For immediate release
June 28, 2016
Contact: Noah Carson-Nelson
At Rainbow PUSH Conference, UNITE HERE Local 1 Urges Chicago: Rename McCormick Square 

Kent at Rainbow PUSH

Kent at Rainbow PUSH

Citing Robert McCormick’s persistent xenophobia, the hospitality workers union calls on the MPEA to reconsider the title “McCormick Square” for Chicago’s Newest Neighborhood

CHICAGO– This morning, at the Annual International Convention of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, UNITE HERE Local 1 President Karen Kent urged Chicago to reconsider naming the city’s newest neighborhood after Robert R. McCormick. Local 1 represents more than 800 people who work at locations in the neighborhood recently dubbed “McCormick Square” by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA).

Kent stated that “as a Chicagoan, I will be damned in hell if I allow any neighborhood in Chicago where our union members work to be named, in 2016, after Trump’s forefather – Robert McCormick.” Kent’s speech can be read in its entirety here.

In April of this year, Lori Healy, CEO of the MPEA, announced the creation of the “McCormick Square” neighborhood around McCormick Place Convention Center. The neighborhood runs from the Green Line east to Lake Michigan, and from 21st Street south to the Stevenson.

Robert McCormick was head of the Chicago Tribune for much of the first half of the 20th century, as well as an advocate for a Chicago convention center. While McCormick was editor-in-chief, Tribune editorials included such statements as “Mexican immigration is bound in time to lower the American standard of living.”

Kent explained that the union is “not proposing that we change the name of our convention center or this hotel” but that “shamefully, today’s convention center authority wants to repeat the mistake it made in 1960.”

“It’s disrespectful that Chicago would name a whole neighborhood after a man that said such hateful things about people of color,” said Barb Maggos, a bartender at Savor at McCormick Place. “We welcome people from all over the world to Chicago— what are visitors from China or Mexico going to think if our city honors a racist in 2016? The MPEA should rename this new neighborhood.”


Learn more about the campaign to rename McCormick Square at www.nomoremccormick.org.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 15,000 hospitality and food service workers in the City of Chicago and surrounding area.

Hotel Burnham Housekeeping Department Wins Union

BurnhamContact: Jordan Fein
(312) 576-5048

Chicago – Workers in the Hotel Burnham’s housekeeping department yesterday voted overwhelmingly to join UNITE HERE Local 1. The vote comes after over a year of picket lines, rallies and other actions, and despite vigorous management intimidation that compelled the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file two complaints against the hotel.

Burnham housekeepers are now calling on Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group to immediately recognize the union and begin bargaining. The workers are hoping the hotel will quickly agree to the same wages, health insurance, job protections and other benefits already enjoyed by union workers at Kimpton’s Hotel Allegro and Hotel Palomar.

“My general manager told me I would lose benefits if I voted for the union, but I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth,” said Karina Tufino, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Burnham for 10 years. “I voted for the union because I want a better life for my family, and I am proud of my coworkers for standing strong together through this fight.”

The Hotel Burnham is owned by Lone Star Funds, a private equity company with $38 billion in assets under management as of February 2016.

“Lone Star Funds should tell Kimpton to settle a contract now,” said Silverio Arenas, a houseman at the Burnham. “I’ve worked at this hotel for 15 years, and I shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the same benefits provided to Allegro and Palomar workers.”

Following the vote, all of Kimpton’s Chicago hotels are now unionized. Room attendants at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco voted overwhelmingly to join Local 1 last December, and will begin negotiating on April 12. Burnham housekeeping workers are hoping to join Monaco workers on April 12 to facilitate a quick settlement at both hotels.

The Hotel Burnham and Atwood Restaurant continues to face prosecution by the NLRB General Counsel for firing server Evan Demma two weeks after he participated in a union protest.

Intimidation by Kimpton managers at the Burnham and Monaco prompted the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file complaints against Kimpton in April 2015 and January 2016.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.

Federal Government alleges more than 20 violations of labor law against Pinnacle’s Ameristar Casino in East Chicago

Noah Carson-Nelson
(312) 933-4045

CHICAGO — On March 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Office issued a federal complaint against the Ameristar Casino East Chicago which is owned and operated by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. The alleged violations include firing a bartender on the basis of her union activity and threatening employees—all alleged to violate employees’ rights under federal labor law.

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

According to the NLRB complaint, which can be found herealleged violations by Pinnacle management and select staff at the casino include: 

  • Filing a lawsuit in Indiana Superior Court with “a motive to retaliate against the Union”
  • Firing a long-time bartender, Jessica Levin, because she contacted customers about the boycott she and her coworkers have called on Ameristar
  • Interfering with employees’ protected union activity by surveilling and photographing workers participating in rallies outside the casino and using those photos to create the impression that employees were under surveillance
  • Making changes to job classifications and break policies without negotiating with the union, including blocking long-term bartenders and servers from returning to their jobs in the sports bar when it was remodeled

The complaint comes in the midst of an attempt by members of UNITE HERE Local 1 at Ameristar to negotiate a new contract with the casino.  The last contract originally expired on October 31, 2012.

“We should have the same benefits as the rest of the unionized casinos in the area” says Jessica Fisch, a cocktail server at the Ameristar Casino for the past 16 years. “Ever since Pinnacle took over in 2013, they’ve been bad for us and for Northwest Indiana.  I’m glad the Labor Board is seeking an order that will make them stop doing things that violate our rights.”

The NLRB General Counsel found sufficient basis to prosecute more than 20 allegations of unfair labor practice at Ameristar Casino and will seek remedies that include restoring employees for any losses they may have incurred due to the violations and reimbursing the Union for legal fees associated with the lawsuit. A hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Chicago.

UNITE HERE represents 1,500 casino workers in Indiana.


Hotel Monaco Housekeeping Department Wins Union

MonacostrikeCHICAGO – After organizing since November 2014, workers in the housekeeping department at the Hotel Monaco voted in favor of joining UNITE HERE Local 1. With this vote, the Monaco becomes the third unionized hotel operated by Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group in Chicago, after the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro, also represented by Local 1. Workers rallied after the votes were counted, calling for Kimpton to begin bargaining a contract in good faith.

“It’s been a long fight, and I am so proud that we decided to join the union today,” said Maricela Gonzalez, a Monaco housekeeper for 15 years and mother of three. “This is the first step to achieving real respect and dignity in our work.”

“We’ve marched in the rain, in the snow, in the sunshine, and today makes it all worth it,” says Mayra Muñoz, who has worked at the hotel for 14 years.

In April, Monaco housekeepers walked out on strike. During the summer they held regular pickets in front of the hotel, calling for an end to pain on the job.

The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the hotel, alleging intimidation, harassment, and other federal labor law violations. Kimpton settled the charges to avoid further litigation.

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.