Congress Hotel Strike Enters Eighth Year

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.

  • Ron

    Is the immigration status of all of these complainers being verified? Just asking.

  • Bill S.

    Who is replacing the strikers? Are they crossing the picket line for 8 bucks?

  • What!?!

    Umm….when will the strikers realize that their strike isn’t really affecting anything? I would think that after 8 years on the picket lines, one of them would notice that the hotel doesn’t seem to be hurting without them. Guess not though….just keep marching people, and make continue to make yourselves look like fools.

  • Bravo

    I commend the Congress Hotel for not caving in to these union hacks. I will make sure I recommend this hotel to everyone I know traveling to Chicago.

  • Baby factory

    If I made $8 an hour, I would make sure that I don’t spit out 6 kids!

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