Business, Economics and Jobs

Union ends 10-year strike at Chicago’s Congress Plaza Hotel


The Willis Tower, once known as the Sears Tower, rises above the Chicago skyline. The building, once the tallest in the world, was built in the 1970s to house the offices of the then largest retailer in the world Sears, Roebuck & Co.


Scott Olson

A union representing cleaning and maintenance workers has ended a strike at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago after 10 years.

The strike is believed to be the longest-lasting hotel strike in the world, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Some 130 workers belonging to the Unite Here Local 1 union walked off the job on June 3, 2003, to protest the hotel’s planned pay cuts and health care contribution freezes.

Over the decade, the strikers have picketed in front of the hotel often, joined by US President Barack Obama in 2003 and 2007, as well as Gov. Pat Quinn and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, CBS News reported.

“The decision to end the Congress strike was a hard one, but it is the right time for the Union and the strikers to move on,” Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said in a written statement, according to CBS News. “The boycott has effectively dramatically reduced the hotel’s business. The hotel treats their workers and customers equally poor and the community knows it. There is no more to do there.”

He continued: “The reclusive owner lives in Geneva and Tel Aviv and hasn’t been to Chicago since the strike started. We don’t see getting a contract here, and we have many more battles to fight for economic justice.”

Congress Plaza Hotel attorney Peter Andjelkovich told the Chicago Tribune that the union and the hotel haven't met for negotiations in a year, so he was surprised to hear that the union had called off the strike.

“They did not get any concessions, and the way the law operates, if the workers come back to work, they will be paid under the expired contract that expired in 2002,” Andjelkovich told CBS News.

That means the union’s workers will earn $8.83 per hour, even though the standard wage  for hotel room attendants in Chicago has risen to $16.40 an hour, Unite Here Local 1 said.

It’s unclear whether any of the union’s workers will return to the hotel.

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