Congress Hotel strike marks nine years

June 15, 2012 4:28:12 PM PDT
Nine years ago, union workers at the Congress Hotel went on strike and Friday, members of Unite Here Local One and their supporters commemorate the anniversary of what they call the longest strike in American history.

They have many more people carrying more signs and making more noise than normal on this anniversary, but at least a few striking workers or union representatives have been outside the Congress Hotel for most of the nearly 3,000 days they have been on strike here.

Most of them have other jobs now but they continue to fight for what they believe in.

"This company is or this owner, he not want to sign a contract for us because they cutting wages, they cutting benefits, they cutting everything," said striking worker Imelda Martinez.

They walked out nine years ago after negotiations broke down over the rejecting the company's offer, which union leaders say was a freeze in pay and a slash in benefits.

Union leaders say there about 60 active remaining strikers, about half the employees who walked out originally nine years ago. Some have crossed the picket line and returned to the hotel.

As for the others, the hotel's chief negotiator issued a statement which says in part, "The union continues to make unreasonable and excessive demands. Instead of negotiating at the bargaining table, the union continues to organize boycott activities, protests, demonstrations and parades."

The union's president however says the company has yet to offer a contract that would put workers on near-equal footing with other Chicago hotel employees.

"We're not going any place, we're still here and we're going to be loud and proud at our protests," said Local 1 president Henry Tamarin.

Union leaders say many striking employees would like to go back to work and a spokesperson for the hotel says they are ready to go back to the bargaining table at any time.

At this time, however, there are no new bargaining sessions scheduled.


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