CHICAGO (CBS)–Thousands of hotel workers are striking in downtown Chicago on Friday demanding better pay and benefits.
The strike against 25 hotels is being called the first-ever city-wide hotel worker strike.
The workers include housekeepers, cooks, servers and doormen who claim the larger hotel chains they’re employed by do not offer year-round health care. They’re demanding health care plans and higher wages, and say they’re not giving up until an agreement is reached.
Affected hotels include the Hyatt Regency Chicago, JW Marriott, Sheraton Grand, and Hilton Chicago.
Union contracts with UNITE HERE Local 1 expired on August 31, according to a press release from that union. The union has been negotiating a new labor contract with the Hilton and other city hotels, but the parties have not reached an agreement.
Striking hotel workers say they deserve sick days to see a doctor, workloads that keep them healthy, and wages that keep up with the cost of raising a family.
Bartender Roushaunda Williams, a bartender at the Palmer House, says she’s worked for the hotel for 18 years.
“Well, considering we’re not given anything, we have to fight, we have to make our demands known and we have to let our company know that we will not be mistreated,” Williams said.
Another hotel worker, Chitquitta Rivers, said she needs health coverage.
“We work hard for the job and they don’t want to give us anything,” Rivers said. “The health insurance is the most important thing…that’s what I’m fighting for.”
A union spokesperson said Chicago hotels collectively reached $2.3 billion in revenue last year, and workers are fighting for what they believe is fair.
“We’re not going to stop until we get what we want,” Rivers said.
A spokesperson for the Hilton says the union’s decision to strike will have minimal impact on their operations and they are confident that an agreement will be reached.
The union workers say they plan to remain on strike until their negotiating committee tells them it’s time to return to work.