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Congress Hotel Strike Enters Eighth Year

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A Congress Hotel worker walks the picket line during a decade-long strike that ended on May 30, 2013. (Credit: CBS)

A Congress Hotel worker walks the picket line during a decade-long strike that ended on May 30, 2013. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 06/15/11 6:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A strike at the Congress Hotel downtown is now entering its eighth year.

And today, union workers in Chicago held a rally, with both sides standing firm, vowing to stick it out until they win.

As CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley reports, that means some serious sacrifices for hotel workers.

Sylvia Anaco was a housekeeper at the Congress, but for the last eight years, she’s been on strike.

“Working in the hotel is very hard, very, very hard,” she said. “And they pay $8; it’s cheap.”

That’s what sparked the strike in back 2003, refusal by the Congress to pay wages equal to other union hotels–around $15 an hour.

“If the hotel were to go out of business, I don’t think the union would have any sympathy for us,” said attorney Peter Andjelkovich, who represents the Congress’ owners.

It’s been eight long years of picketing and protesting; arrests have been made over the years for civil disobedience, like blocking Michigan Avenue.

But the two sides seem no closer to a resolution now, than when workers first walked out.

“The company has never offered a single nickel, even a penny worth of improvement, since this negotiation started in 2002,” said Henry Tamarin, president of Unite Now Local 1, which represents the workers.

Still, strikers like Leticia Aritzmendi, a mother of six, including one child with cancer, aren’t giving up.

“I’m gonna continue this fight because it’s very important. Not only for me, for every family,” she said.

The union no longer expects to achieve equal pay at the Congress, compared with other large hotels. They say they are willing to compromise.

But Congress management isn’t buying it. They say the union knows that if it settles for lower wages, other hotels will start to demand the same.

In the end, both sides say they want a deal, but both have reasons for not backing down.

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