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.

###

Feds to prosecute Kimpton Hotels for alleged threats against housekeepers

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

59 alleged violations of federal labor law at downtown Hotel Monaco and Hotel Burnham

strikemonaco

Kimpton workers on strike in April

On April 30th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Office issued a federal complaint against Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group for allegedly interrogating employees about their union activities, threatening firings, and threatening loss of wages and benefits if they chose to unionize at the Hotel Monaco and Burnham Hotel downtown.

According to the NLRB complaint, which can be found here, alleged violations by Kimpton management and select staff at both hotels include: 

·         Creating the impression of surveillance of employees engaged in protected, concerted activity;

·         Threatening unspecified reprisals for engaging in protected, concerted activity such as distributing union flyers

·         Interrogating employees about union membership, activities and sympathies

·         Threatening to take away benefits and/or withdrawal of benefits if employees select the Union as their bargaining representative

The complaint follows last month’s one-day strike by housekeepers calling for the Hotel Monaco to remain neutral as employees decide whether or not to unionize.

“All we want is to be able to make the choice for ourselves about forming a union,” says Jorge Jamaica, a houseman at the Hotel Monaco for the past 5 years. “I don’t understand why our managers won’t let us have the freedom to decide, but I’m glad the Labor Board is seeking an order that will make them to stop doing things that violate our right to organize.”

The NLRB General Counsel found sufficient basis to prosecute unfair labor practice charges that include twenty-eight allegations at the Hotel Monaco, and thirty-one at the Hotel Burnham. The trial is scheduled for July 21 in Chicago.

Workers at both hotels first approached hotel management in November 2014 to demand a fair process to decide on unionization, which guarantees no interference or opposition from management.

Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group operates four Chicago hotels. UNITE HERE Local 1 represents workers at the Hotel Allegro and Hotel Palomar, where workers won a union contract in 2012 after the hotel agreed to a fair process to organize.

Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group was purchased by Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) last December.

The Hotel Monaco is owned by Xenia Hotels and Resorts (NYSE:XHR), a recently spun-off affiliate of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Inland American a “zombie REIT” for its failure to wind down and return cash to shareholders. Inland American’s new name is InvenTrust Property Corp. The Hotel Burnham is owned by Lone Star Funds, a private equity fund manager.

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

###

Rivers Casino workers rally for a fair process to organize a union; call for Rush Street Gaming’s “New York Deal”

ProgressILRivers3-14-14Despite pledging to abide by a fair organizing process in New York, Neil Bluhm’s casino management company refuses to stop intimidation and harassment tactics in Des Plaines

DES PLAINES, IL– Over one hundred casino and hotel workers lined the road leading into Rivers Casino today to protest managers’ continued anti-union practices and call for a fair process to organize a union at the casino.

Although the company recently pledged to abide by a fair process for a planned casino in upstate New York, Rush Street Gaming, majority owned by Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm, has refused to agree to the same process to respect workers’ rights to organize their union in Des Plaines.

“Rivers Casino needs to stop attacking us so we can get a fair process for Chicago,” said Linnea Dominiek, a server in the VIP lounge at Rivers for the past three years.  “Why is Rivers refusing the same fair deal my coworkers in upstate New York will get?”

The rally capped three weeks of demonstrations at each of Neil Bluhm’s US casinos (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and now Chicago/Des Plaines).  Casino workers from each of the Pennsylvania casinos traveled to Des Plaines to stand with their coworkers.

The Rivers Casino conflict escalated early last year outside Chicago when dozens of unfair labor practice charges, including intimidation and harassment of workers, were found to have merit by the General Counsel to the National Labor Relations Board.

UNITE HERE Local 1 has been supporting workers organizing at Rivers in Des Plaines.

###