Palmer House Hilton workers strike

December 16, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"What worries me the most is I may lose my job ultimately or I may have to do my workload and the workload of someone else," said Roushaunda Williams.

Outraged hotel employees beat on pots and pans, hoping to send a message. They say the biggest problem is that the Hilton wants to subcontract jobs.

"Anytime that you have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 guests in the hotel at a time, it is time to bring our workers back to work," said employee Brenda Clavelle-Ross.

About 500 workers have walked off the job. The one-day strike comes as the busy holiday season kicks into full gear. The contract battle has been going on for more than a year. Earlier this year, union members conducted short-term strikes at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue and the Hyatt Regency-O'Hare. The contract for housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks and bell staff expired 15 months ago.

The union says the company is using the recession as an unfair advantage to eliminate jobs and increase the quotas for housekeepers, even though the company got a $180 million bailout.

"I just want to know what is going on in return. We would like to see some of that," said Duayne Greer.

"Housekeepers, bellmen, dishwashers, they are hardworking people who keep the operations going and make the hotel a hotel that Chicago is famous for. They want to be treated with respect," said union spokesperson Annemarie Strassel. "I'm hoping the Hilton understands that we have given our lives to make our work environment a better place for our customers, our guests. And we are just hoping that that's recognized and we get a signed contract."

Hilton is now owned by Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. The company has said in the past that work stoppages and demonstrations will do nothing to bring both sides closer to a new contract and that they are harmful to employees, to the hospitality industry and to the city of Chicago.

Hilton released a statement today stating:

"It is unfortunate that Local 1's leadership has chosen to take this unnecessary step. Union tactics, such as work stoppages and demonstrations, will do nothing to bring us closer to a new contract. They are harmful to employees, to the hospitality industry and to the city of Chicago. Instead of taking actions that will drive business out of Chicago, Local 1 should return to the bargaining table so that we can resolve our differences."

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