CHICAGO (STMW) — UNITE HERE Local 1 and Hilton Worldwide have reached a labor agreement in Chicago covering 1,600 workers at the Drake, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Hilton and Hilton O’Hare, the union announced Monday.

The agreement preserves pension and health-care benefits, and includes a wage increase, improved job-stability terms and reduced workloads for housekeeping staff. A housekeeper in Chicago now making $14.60 an hour will make $16.40 an hour by the time the contract expires in August 2013, for example, said Annemarie Strassel, Local 1 spokeswoman.

The union had been without a contract since August 2009, and had held protests in front of select hotels.

Claudia Virto, a housekeeping employee at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, said she is pleased by the contract terms. She said that the agreement to maintain existing housekeepers’ workloads will prevent long-time workers who were moved from laundry to housekeeping from losing their jobs.

“As a single mother of three, I am really glad we have a contract that maintains our benefits, including being able to see a doctor when our rapid work causes an injury,” said Virto, a Cicero resident whose children are ages 6, 8 and 10.

Strassel said the agreement “maintains strong middle-class standards for jobs, wages and benefits that will help the workers climb out of the recession.”

A Hilton spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Local 1, which represents 8,000 hotel workers in the Chicago region, is still negotiating with Hyatt and Starwood hotels.

–Chicago Sun-Times, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)