Downtown hotel workers strike continues, guests feel impact

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At the Palmer House Hilton, it's day four of picketing for hotel workers who are on strike. They are demanding year-round health insurance for full-time workers who say they're often let go during slow periods, leading to gaps in coverage.

Workers walked out Friday morning after more than 3,200 UNITE HERE Local 1 members voted to authorize a strike and 97 percent voted yes. Their current contract expired August 31.

Inside the hotel, towels pile up and beds remain unmade despite the best efforts of management.

"They're trying really hard, yes. We have managers checking bags and people filling in where they can, I guess," said hotel guest Callye Keen.

"There's a long wait for check-in, like the queue, the line, was literally around the building," said guest Matt Lissack.

RELATED: Thousands of downtown hotel workers go on strike Friday

A group of travelers from DC is here for three more days.

"How's that room going to be by Thursday?" ABC7's Eric Horng asked.

"We're going to figure it out. We may have to buy some towels," said hotel guest Michael Hogarty.

The strike by thousands of housekeepers, doormen, cooks and servers is impacting more than two dozen downtown hotels, including the Hyatt Regency where people told us a lack of room service was about the only disruption.

"We're not going to stop. We're not going to give up. We're going to be out here every day, all day until we get what we want," said striking hotel worker Chiquitta Rivers.

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A spokesperson for Hyatt says the hotel continues to negotiate in good faith and is disappointed the union chose to strike.

Hyatt released the following statement Monday regarding the strike:

We are disappointed that UNITE HERE Local 1 has chosen to strike at this early stage. Hyatt and Local 1 are not at an impasse on any issue, and further negotiation sessions are set for this week. In fact, Hyatt has not received the union's complete proposals. Colleague benefits and wages remain unchanged as we negotiate a new agreement.

Our colleagues are the heart of our business, and we respect their right to voice their opinions. Many colleagues are working, and Hyatt hotels continue their operations and commitment to outstanding guest experiences.

Hyatt has a long history of strong labor relations. Hyatt and UNITE HERE have already come to agreements this year in other markets, and we will continue negotiating in good faith in Chicago for a fair contract.

Hyatt hotels in Chicago, like those across the country, offer competitive wages and benefits to our colleagues, including comprehensive healthcare, various wellbeing initiatives and generous retirement contributions. We remain committed to fostering a safe, inclusive workplace that earns an average colleague tenure of more than 12 years and consistent recognition, including Hyatt's No. 9 ranking on FORTUNE's most recent Best Companies to Work For list. Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best, and the wellbeing of our colleagues is our first priority.

A Hilton spokesperson released the following statement Tuesday:

"The comfort and satisfaction of our guests remain our top priorities. We're staffing in a number of ways to ensure service runs smoothly. For example, we've had the benefit of our managers from around the country as well as our local Chicago hotels take on the roles of housekeeper, server and doorman. More and more of our union Team Members are choosing to return to work and we welcome them to do so.

It is still early in the negotiations process and Hilton is committed to negotiating in good faith with UNITE HERE Local 1. We look forward to an agreement that is fair to our valued Team Members and to our hotels."
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