Housekeepers Rally for Affordable Healthcare at the Hotel Burnham

For immediate release
July 8, 2016
Contact: Jordan Fein
(312) 576-5048
jfein@unitehere.org

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
ncarsonnelson@unitehere1.org

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
jfein@unitehere.org

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
ncarsonnelson@unitehere1.org

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.

 

UNITE HERE Calls for Firing of ICE Director after Chicago-Area Meatpacking Raid

New Video Details Impact of Bungled Enforcement Priorities on Immigrant Workers

[Chicago, IL] One year ago, President Obama reiterated his immigration enforcement priorities and announced an Executive Order that would have provided deportation relief for nearly five million undocumented workers in the U.S.  By contrast, workers at Ruprecht Company, a meatpacking plant in Mundelein, IL, have faced arrests or firings after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audited the company. Now, UNITE HERE and allies are calling for the firing of a local ICE official who is in charge of ICE’s Chicago Field Office.

Jose EnriquezUNITE HERE, the union representing Ruprecht workers, is releasing a video documenting the story at Ruprecht and calling for local accountability for the Ruprecht raid, which resulted in 8 arrests and 36 firings or resignations.  Watch the video at www.fireICEnow.org.

“Our members are hardworking people, building roots and providing for their families, who contribute to the local economy.  The disruption to their families and work lives did not do anyone any good,” says Maria Elena Durazo, Vice President of Civil Rights & Immigration at UNITE HERE. “The actions of ICE officials in this case are clearly inconsistent with the President’s stated enforcement objectives.”

In response, today UNITE HERE is issuing a letter to Secretary Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, calling for the firing of the Chicago Field Office Director, Ricardo Wong. Wong presides over Enforcement Removal Operations for the state and region.

UNITE HERE believes that ICE has no legitimate business at Ruprecht, due to the Revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) which states: “ICE agrees to refrain from engaging in civil worksite enforcement activities at a worksite that is the subject of an existing DOL investigation of a labor dispute.”

For months, UNITE HERE, joined by dozens of immigrant, faith and labor leaders, has appealed to Secretary Johnson to rescind the Ruprecht audit letter, provide relief to families, and clarify how the administration intends to prevent ICE from interfering in labor disputes. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) called the inspection “needless and harmful collateral damage to…families and children.” As of today, the union has received no response.

“Proceeding with the audit at Ruprecht after being notified about the labor dispute was inappropriate,” says Father Clete Kiley of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “Someone needs to be held accountable.”

UNITE HERE represents 270,000 women and men across North America who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries.

Chicago’s Hotel Burnham housekeepers join downtown pain protests

unnamedContact: Joe Shansky, jshansky@unitehere1.org / (312) 623-5382

Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group faces continuing protests about housekeeper treatment

Following demonstrations and picket lines throughout the summer, workers at downtown’s Hotel Burnham are now speaking out about pain on the job.
 
Hotel Burnham workers plan to rally outside the hotel (1 W. Washington St) from 4:30-6:30 pm on Friday, joined by hospitality workers from across the city. Housekeepers will speak about experiencing pain in their daily work, and deliver a letter asking what management has done to reduce physical stressors for housekeepers.

Today’s demonstration follows an April strike for a fair process to organize at the Hotel Monaco. Hotel Monaco and Hotel Burnham are both operated by Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group.

“When I get home from work, my body hurts so much that I can’t play with my son.” says Karina Tufino, a 10-year housekeeper at the Burnham. “Why should I have to choose between doing my job well and being a good mother?”

From 2013-2014, the hotel’s OSHA records indicated that workers in various job classifications throughout the hotel and restaurant reported 16 injuries resulting in a total of 122 days of lost work. Reported injuries included lacerations, back strains, falls on stairs, a contusion, and a burn.

In September 2015, UNITE HERE Local 1 surveyed 13 out of the approximately 17 members of the Hotel Burnham’s housekeeping department, including 8 who identified as housekeepers (room attendants). All surveyed housekeepers reported experiencing pain at work (responding affirmatively to the question “do you ever experience pain at work?”). 63% of surveyed housekeepers said that their pain has prevented them from participating in family activities. 46% of all surveyed employees in the housekeeping department reported taking pain relievers, citing examples such as Tylenol or Advil.

“We can’t keep letting our bodies suffer like this,” says Vina Arcia, who has worked at the hotel for 5 years. “At the end of each day, I can barely move. At night, it’s difficult to sleep. Something needs to change.”

Workers at both hotels have been organizing for a fair process to form a union since November 2014. Kimpton is facing new federal unfair labor practice charges filed by UNITE HERE Local 1 after settling earlier charges filed in 2014. The government has not yet decided whether to prosecute.

The Hotel Burnham is owned by Lone Star Funds, a Dallas-based private equity manager. 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 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

Citing Housekeeper Pain, Workers At Chicago’s Hotel Monaco Plan Downtown Protest During Lollapalooza


Contact: Joe Shansky, jshansky@unitehere1.org

As Chicago braces for Lollapalooza crowds this weekend, housekeepers, laundry workers, and restaurant workers at the Loop’s Hotel Monaco are calling for an end to pain that housekeepers experience on the job.

Monaco workers, a majority of whom are immigrant women, picketed the hotel throughout the day on July 31st, joined by union and non-union hospitality workers from across the city.  Workers confronted their managers with safety concerns, followed by a press conference with testimonies about workplace conditions outside of the hotel at 225 N. Wabash Ave.

”We’re tired of working in pain,” says Mayra Muñoz, a housekeeper at the hotel for 14 years. “It has gotten to the point where I can barely lift my arms or bend down without feeling sore.”

UNITE HERE Local 1 surveyed 18 out of the approximately 29 members of the Hotels el Monaco’s housekeeping department in June and July 2015, including 14 women who identified as housekeepers.  All workers who responded reported experiencing pain at work (responding affirmatively to the question “do you ever experience pain at work?”)  78% of respondents reported taking pain relievers, citing examples such as Tylenol or Advil.  72% reported having woken up during the night in pain.

Housekeepers consistently identified lifting heavy mattresses as a source of pain. Repeated activities like this can cause excessive stress on the back and shoulders. 67% of all respondents reported pain or discomfort in their right shoulder during the past year that they attributed to work and 78% reported the same in their lower back.

“I get home and collapse,” said Maricela Gonzalez, a Monaco housekeeper for 15 years and mother of three.  “I can’t play with my children. I can’t cook for my family. I’m just exhausted.”

Half of the respondents said that their pain has prevented them from participating in family activities.

“Kimpton advertises that they believe in ‘empowering women and supporting their aspirations,’” says Gonzalez. “But we can’t pursue our aspirations when work leaves us exhausted and in pain.”

In the letter delivered to hotel managers, Monaco workers called on management to describe what it has done to reduce physical stressors for housekeepers.  In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified a series of recommendations to a different Chicago hotel employer for reducing housekeeper injury risk, steps such as providing long-handled tools and reducing significant lifting tasks.  Workers will also request copies of any job hazard analyses, workplace studies, or ergonomic evaluations that Kimpton has conducted as they have a right to do under OSHA rules.

Housekeepers walked out on strike in April at the Hotel Monaco for a fair process to organize a union. Since then, 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, but new charges have been filed against Kimpton’s Hotel Burnham.

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 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

Health Insurance Plan Cut At Ameristar Casino Leads to National Demonstration

DSC_0360

Protesters gather in front of Ameristar Casino in March, calling for a fair union contract

Union leaders from across the country to gather in East Chicago, call for fair contract for Ameristar workers

EAST CHICAGO, IN – Union leaders and hundreds of union members from as far as Tunica, Mississippi plan to converge outside the Ameristar Casino grounds on Tuesday, to sound support for the ongoing boycott and Ameristar employees currently fighting for a fair contract.

In May, Ameristar’s Las Vegas-based owner, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., cut the affordable, family-supporting union health plan that union workers had enjoyed for years. The 200 union workers represented by UNITE HERE are now struggling with the reality of newly imposed cuts to their health insurance plan.

“I depended on our good insurance. I need medication every day for my diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure,” says Ana Colon, a cleaner for the past 15 years at Ameristar.

Tuesday’s demonstration will be the largest to date since the Ameristar boycott was initiated, with buses coming from New Orleans, Mississippi, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Chicago.

Under the union plan, employees paid nothing for individual coverage and $30/month for family and dependent coverage. Family coverage under the new Pinnacle plan will charge employees up to $4,000 per year in payroll deductions, beginning in 2016.

“When the casinos came to Northwest Indiana, they promised good jobs. Now they’re asking us to literally choose between putting food on the table and our families’ health.” says Natalie Mijares, a 34 year old bartender and mother of two. Mijares has worked at Ameristar for nine years.

In March, the cleaners, servers, and bartenders at Ameristar called for a boycott of the property, asking customers to gamble elsewhere until the contract is settled and the Union health plan is restored. The boycott immediately drew support from the United Steelworkers, representing 70,000 members and the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, representing around 41,000 members.

Workers have since organized weekly pickets of the property, in addition to regular customer outreach. Earlier this month, UNITE HERE launched a new website dedicated to informing potential customers about labor disputes in the region.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents nearly a thousand workers at three Northwest Indiana casino properties: 200 workers at Ameristar, 300 workers at Majestic Star, and 450 workers at Blue Chip Casino.

###

Gaming Union Launches Website Informing Northwest Indiana Customers of Area Labor Disputes

legalized-marina-memeEAST CHICAGO, IN – The union for workers in gaming, hotels, and food service industries, UNITE HERE, has launched a new website intended as a resource for customers of Northwest Indiana casinos who need to know whether labor disputes could affect their plans in the area.

The website, www.indianagamingalert.org, will be regularly updated with information about actual and potential labor disputes affecting NW Indiana casinos and the status of contract negotiations. Concerned customers and visitors to the site may sign up for email updates, as well as find strategies to protect their event or travel plans from the possibility of being impacted by labor disputes.

Consumers’ need for such a resource is especially great now, as East Chicago’s Ameristar Casino is embroiled in a lengthy labor dispute with UNITE HERE. Union workers had been in negotiations with Ameristar, which was bought in 2012 by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., based in Las Vegas.

In May, Pinnacle cut the affordable, family-supporting union health plan that union workers at Ameristar East Chicago had enjoyed for years. Family coverage under the Pinnacle plan will charge employees up to $4,000 per year in payroll deductions, beginning in 2016. Under the union plan, employees paid nothing for individual coverage and $30/month for family and dependent coverage. Ameristar is now the only union riverboat casino in Northwest Indiana that does not offer a union health care plan for its 200 union workers.

The cleaners, servers, and bartenders at Ameristar have called for a boycott of the property until the contract is settled. Workers at Ameristar have begun reaching out directly to regional community members and customers to keep them informed and ask for support.

Indianagamingalert.org is part of that effort. Items recently posted to the site include:

· Profiles and stories of area casino workers

· An online pledge to boycott, signed by customers and the general public, demanding Ameristar Casino settle a fair contract that maintains the union health plan.

· Photo gallery of customer and community supporters/pledge signees

· News stories/press about the Ameristar boycott

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents nearly a thousand workers at three Northwest Indiana casino properties: 200 workers at Ameristar, 300 workers at Majestic Star, and 450 workers at Blue Chip Casino.

###