Hundreds of workers protest hotel chain

September 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) The protest shut down part of Chicago Avenue between Michigan and Wabash during the evening rush hour and ended in more than 200 arrests.

Those arrested were cited with failure to exercise due care by sitting in a roadway. They face minimum fines of $90.

Those protesting were angry that the hotel chain recently fired 100 housekeepers at a hotel in Boston and replaced them with other workers.

Workers were concerned the same scenario could happen in Chicago. The Hyatt Hotel officials ABC7 talked to did not want to comment on that. Meantime, though, they did close down Chicago Avenue between Wabash and Michigan Avenue right in the middle of rush hour.

The protest was peaceful, but the hotel workers are trying to send a message to employers that they are quite serious. The protest is sponsored by a group called Unite which represents union hotel workers and others. They say they are fighting for their jobs. Layoffs and the economy have affected them. Much of the focus is on the Hyatt Corporation which is in negotiations.

Police let the protestors stage their sit-in and then calmly led them away for processing. Nearly 200 of them were taken in for processing.

"These companies are greedy and they decide where and when they want to try to help you provide a future for your kids. They're making money, cutting back on us, and we have to bail them out with our tax money. We're tired of it," said Cedric Harris, hotel worker.

"It's something that we see is not as productive as being at the table. We believe more could be accomplished by sitting at the bargaining table and facing the challenges that we have," said Arnold Karr, Hotel Employers Labor Relations Association.

In addition to the 200 people arrested, offiicials estimate about 600 more people showed their support.

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