Hotel strike ordinance sent back to committee

October 7, 2009 2:51:58 PM PDT
It could be unconstitutional, but that didn't stop the Chicago City Council from considering an ordinance that orders hotels to tell their guests about workers on strike.The ordinance, which was inspired by the strike at Chicago's Congress Hotel, was re- referred back to the city council finance department on Wednesday.

The issue- hotel workers say that guests ought to know ahead of time if there's a strike underway at the hotel where they want to book a room as a matter of consumer protection. However, hoteliers say it has nothing to do with consumer protection and everything to do with contract negotiations.

Chicago hotel workers showed their support of the proposed ordinance on Wednesday. That ordinance would require any hotel in Chicago that's the subject of a strike lasting more than two weeks to let all their prospective guests know about the job action when they call to book a room. The hotel would also have to notify travel agents and all internet reservation sites that there's a strike going on.

"There's a lot of people who - if they know the hotel is on strike- they won't cross the picket line," said Ron Taylor, hotel worker.

"There's not a scab that can cover or do the same job a professional can," said Ellen Maloney, hotel worker.

The hotel industry says the proposed ordinance is not about consumer protection for tourists. It believes the measure is a union tactic meant to boost negotiating power during contract talks which are underway now.

"It doesn't affect restaurants, airlines, rental cars," said Marc Gordon, Il. Hotel and Lodging Association. "It would be a tremendous burden and a very onerous law that hotels would very much have difficulty complying with."

The city's own law department says the proposed ordinance legally vulnerable.

"There's threats of lawsuits all the time. We can't legislate by threats of lawsuits. We're legislating policy here. We want to protect the consumer and the tourism industry," said Ald. Ricky Munoz, sponsor.

The council was to vote on the ordinance Wednesday, but there was confusion. There weren't the votes to pass it, or kill it, but just enough to keep it breathing. It was re-referred to the finance committee.

Whether or not it'll find enough votes to return to the council floor for a full vote is not known. A similar measure was defeated three years ago. The Daley administration opposed it then as it does now. Alderman Munoz is determined to keep pushing it.


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